That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
We come to a knowledge of Christ by shaping ourselves into His nature. We do not come to know Christ by gathering together arguments from physical science, nor by grouping texts out of the written Word of God: we come to a knowledge of Christ by a personal experience of those qualities which inhere in Him, and which, in power, constitute His divinity. He who has in himself a moral quality which corresponds to that which is in Jesus Christ, and has great sensibility in it, will have a knowledge of Jesus Christ, of God in Christ, or of the Eternal Father, as the case may be. He will have in himself a knowledge which he cannot have by any external process of reasoning. The sensibility of a corresponding nature is a true interpretation, and is the highest argument possible, under such circumstances. It is so much of us as is godlike that gives us the evidence of God. A moral state carried up to a certain degree of intensity will develop evidence and power in the direction of truths of its own kind. And he who is, like Christ, built up in love — built vertically, built laterally, built all round; he whose nature it is to dwell centrally in this great, enriching, all-controlling element and power of love, will have brought into his mind a realization of the existence of God, and of the power of God's nature as a Being of love, which will be overwhelming and all-satisfying; which you cannot get from science, because science does not touch it; and which you cannot get from mere reasoning, because reasoning does not reach to it. We may help ourselves by reasoning, and we may gain analogies by science; if we turn to the natural world we may find there evidence of the existence of God, so far as Divine quality is represented by power and matter; but when we rise to the moral and personal elements of the Divine character, nature has nothing in it which can explain them to us — unless we be nature; and we are. There is nothing in nature, aside from man, out of which we can develop these attributes of the Divine Being. We can apprehend them only by having in us moral qualities which correspond to them, and by having them as sensitive to the Divine presence as the thermometer is to the presence of heat, or as the barometer is to the pressure of the atmosphere, or to the presence of moisture in it. These qualities — heat and moisture — are indicated to us by certain instruments; and here is an instrument, the soul of man, existing in the power of a true regenerated love; and this is that which detects the presence, and is inspired by the touch, of the Divine nature, and bears witness to it. It is said that God bears witness in us; but not a whit more than we bear witness to His presence. I sat last summer sometimes for hours in the dreamy air of the mountains, and saw, over against the Twin Mountain House, the American aspen, of which the forests there are full. I saw all the coquetries and blinkings of that wonderful little tree — the witch, the fairy tree, of the forest. As I sat there, when there was not a cloud moving, when there was not a ripple on the glassy surface of the river, when there was not a grain of dust lifted, when everything was still — dead still — right over against me was that aspen tree; and there was one little leaf quivering and dancing on it. It was so nicely poised on its long, slender stem that it knew when the air moved. Though I did not know it, though the dust did not know it, and though the clouds did not know it, that leaf knew it; and it quivered and danced, as much as to say: "O wind! you can't fool me." It detected the motion of the air when nothing else could. Now, it only requires sensibility in us to detect physical qualities, if we have the corresponding qualities; or social elements, if we have the corresponding elements; or moral attributes, if we have the corresponding attributes. We detect all qualities by the sensibility in us of corresponding qualities which reveal them to us. And he who has largely the Divine element will be able to recognize the Divine existence. That element in him is the power by which he is brought to a knowledge of God. In view of this exposition, I remark —
I. That the attempt to prove a God by scientific tests, applying physics strictly, can only reach a small way up. There is an argument that can be constructed that will satisfy — those that it will satisfy; but it is only a little way that it can go. And as I do not think that men can, by scientific observation, test and determine that which lies outside of all physics, so neither do I think this failure need lead to the scepticisms which some men make, but which, thank God, the most eminent scientific men do not make, who are many of them reverent, and who are all of them, I believe, seekers after the truth. The greatest physicists of the day are men who want to know the truth, not only as it is related to matter and to men, but as it is related to Divinity. But that makes no difference. You cannot prove nor disprove by matter that which lies beyond matter; and if, through all the material universe, there is no sign nor hint of God, it does not make any difference in the truth of His spiritual existence.
II. The difficulties which beset the existence of God as a personal Being, of intellect, of emotion, and of will — a transcendent and glorified man (for that is as near as we can come to it) — these difficulties are not alleviated when we turn in other directions. I am speaking in an age which runs strongly in the line of scepticism as to the existence of God. Because men have not seen Him, and cannot apply to Him the same tests that they apply to matter, there is a strong drifting towards atheism. I see no alleviation in that direction. That we exist, that nature exists, that there is an infinite chain of cause and effect, that it has had a past history, and that it is to have a future history, we cannot deny. We cannot deny that the vast universe is a fact, except by shutting our eyes. You meet the same difficulties in the realm of sense. When you say that matter is eternal, you do not help anything. It is useless to attempt to stop the thought by a word. You do not stop the thought at all. We go back on it. It is more difficult for me, a thousand times, to conceive that there is in the universe a self-ordering nature, than it is to conceive of a personal God who takes care of the universe, as we take care of an estate, or of a kingdom. Neither do I find any relief in turning to the poets. There is no relief for me in atheism, or pantheism, or in the idea that the sum total of the universe, and that all causes and effects, are God; that the whole physical creation is the body of God; that all the intelligence diffused through all creatures is the intelligence of God; that matter and mind, as they exist distributed through the universe, are only another name for God. By adopting this theory we may run away from some grievous difficulties; but we run into as many others that are no less grievous. I would rather shut my eyes and give up trying to understand my God, than undertake to trace Him partly in myself, partly in you, partly in the laws of matter, and partly in the laws of mind. In such a diffused thought of God there is no relief to me from the difficulties which inhere in this subject. The prime trouble is, that we are not large enough to understand God on any theory.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,