What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray to him?
Let me first lay down the doctrine, that no man can hold the Christian view of God's personality and dominion without his whole intellectual nature being ennobled. He no longer looks at things superficially; he sees beyond the grey, cold cloud that limits the vision of men who have no God; the whole sphere of his intellectual life receives the light of another world. The difference between his former state and his present condition, is the difference between the earth at midnight and the earth in the glow and hope of a summer morning! This is not mere statement. It is statement based upon the distinctest and gladdest experience of our own lives, and based also upon the very first principles of common sense. The finer and clearer our conceptions of the Divine idea, the nobler and stronger must be our intellectual bearing and capacity. When the very idea of God comes into the courses of man's thinking, the quality of his thought is changed; his outlook upon life widens and brightens; his tone is subdued into veneration, and his inquisitiveness is chastened into worship. Intellectually the idea of God is a great idea. It enters the mind, as sunlight would startle a man who is groping along a path that overhangs abysses in the midst of starless gloom. The idea "God" cannot enter into the mind, and mingle quietly with common thinking. Wherever that idea goes, it carries with it revolution, elevation, supremacy. I am speaking, please to observe, not of a cold intellectual assent to the suggestion that God is, but of a reverent and hearty faith in His being and rule. Such a faith never leaves the mind as it found it. It turns the intellect into a temple; it sets within the mind a new standard of measure and appraisement; and lesser lights are paled by the intensity of its lustre. Is this mere statement? It is statement; but it is the statement of experience; it is the utterance of what we ourselves know; because comparing ourselves with ourselves we are aware that we have known and loved the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that since we have done so, our intellectual life has sprung from the dust, and refreshed itself at fountains which are accessible only to those who live in God. This, then, is the first position which I lay down for your thought and consideration, namely: That no man can entertain with reverence and trust the idea that God is, without his whole intellectual nature being lifted up to a higher plane than it occupied before; without his mind receiving great access of light and vigour. Do you tell me that you know some men who profess to believe in God, and who sincerely do believe in His existence and His government, and yet they are men of no intellectual breadth, of no speciality in the way of intellectual culture and nobleness? I hear you; I know what you say, and I believe it. But will you tell me what those men would have been, small as they are now, but for the religion that is in them? I know that at present they are very minute, intellectually speaking, — exceedingly small and microscopic. But what would they have been if the idea of God's existence and rule had never taken possession of their intellectual nature? Besides that, they are on the line of progress. There is a germ in them which may be developed, which may, by diligent culture, by reverent care, become the supreme influence in their mental lives. Please to remember such modifications when you are disposed to sneer at men who, though they have a God in their faith and in their hearts, are yet not distinguished by special intellectual strength. You tell me that you know some men who never mention the name of God, and who, therefore, seem to have no religion at all; who are men of very brilliant intellectual power, very fertile in intellectual resources, and who altogether have distinguished themselves in the empire of Mind. I believe it. But will you tell me what these men might have been if they had added to intellectual greatness a spirit of reverence and adoration? Can you surely tell me that those men would not have been greater had they known what it is to worship the one living and true God? Not only is there an ennoblement of the nature of a man, as a whole, by his acceptance of the Christian idea of God — there is more. That in itself is an inexpressible advantage; but there is a higher profit still, forasmuch as there is a vital cleansing and purification of a man's moral being. Let a man receive the Christian idea of God, let him believe fully in God, as revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and a new sensitiveness is given to his conscience; he no longer loses himself in the mazes of a cunning casuistry; he goes directly to the absolute and final standard of righteousness; all moral relations are simplified; moral duty becomes transparent;. he knows what is right, and does it; he knows the wrong afar off, and avoids it.
Parallel VersesKJV: What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?