John 8:47
Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in LentSusannah Winkworth John 8:47
A Glorious LiberatorSunday School TimesJohn 8:31-59
Bondage and DeliveranceW. Arnot, D. D.John 8:31-59
Bondage and FreedomJohn 8:31-59
Christ Sets Free the SinfulC. H. Spurgeon.John 8:31-59
Constancy a Severe Test of PietyJ. Spencer.John 8:31-59
Continuous Piety is Piety IndeedJ. Trapp.John 8:31-59
Disciples IndeedT. G. Horton.John 8:31-59
Evidence of DiscipleshipH. C. Trumbull.John 8:31-59
Freedom Aided by GodJohn 8:31-59
Freedom and ResponsibilityH. W. Beecher.John 8:31-59
Freedom by the TruthF. W. Robertson, M. A.John 8:31-59
Freedom by the TruthW. Birch.John 8:31-59
Freedom by the TruthJ Todd.John 8:31-59
Freedom by the TruthP. N. Zabriskie, D. D.John 8:31-59
Freedom Only to be Found in GodR. S. Barrett.John 8:31-59
Glorious LibertyW. Jay.John 8:31-59
Jesus and AbrahamH. A. Edson, D. D.John 8:31-59
LibertyW. Arnot, D. D.John 8:31-59
Moral BondageD. Thomas, D. D.John 8:31-59
No Place for the WordW. M. H. Aitken, M. A., G. S. Bowes.John 8:31-59
Sin is Spiritual SlaveryProf. Shedd.John 8:31-59
Spiritual and Scientific TruthAubrey L. Moore, M. A.John 8:31-59
Spiritual EmancipationJ. M. King, D. D.John 8:31-59
Spiritual FreedomC. H. Spurgeon.John 8:31-59
Spiritual LibertyCanon Stowell.John 8:31-59
Spiritual LibertyH. W. Beecher.John 8:31-59
The Best Service is ConstantJohn 8:31-59
The Effects of the Rejection and the Reception of the WordThe Leisure HourJohn 8:31-59
The English SlaveS. S. Times.John 8:31-59
The Freedom Which Christ GivesJohn Howe.John 8:31-59
The Grace of ContinuanceA. T. Pierson, D. D.John 8:31-59
The Great LiberatorC. H. Spurgeon.John 8:31-59
The Hour of EmancipationHeroes of Britain.John 8:31-59
The Kingdom of the TruthC. S. Robinson, D. D.John 8:31-59
The Liberty of BelieversJohn 8:31-59
The Method of Christian FreedomW. Arnot.John 8:31-59
The Progress of the Lost Soul to DestructionBp. Samuel Wilberforce.John 8:31-59
The Servant Abideth not in the House ForeverA. Maclaren, D. D.John 8:31-59
The Son and the Slave ContrastedArchdeacon Watkins.John 8:31-59
The Spiritual Slavery of ManT. Binney.John 8:31-59
The Vain Boast of the JewsAbp. Trench.John 8:31-59
True FreedomO. F. Gifford.John 8:31-59
True LibertyCanon Liddon.John 8:31-59
Truth and LibertyH. Bonar, D. D.John 8:31-59
Truth and LibertyH. G. Trumbull, D. D.John 8:31-59
Ye Shall be Free IndeedArchdeacon Watkins.John 8:31-59
Because I Tell You the Truth, Ye Believe Me NotF. Godet, D. D.John 8:38-47
Children of the DevilW. Baxendale.John 8:38-47
Christ's Challenge to the WorldArchbishop Trench.John 8:38-47
Christ's ClaimJ. Parker, D. D.John 8:38-47
Christ's Language About SinW. S. Wood, M. A.John 8:38-47
Conditions of Belief of the TruthF. W. Robertson, M. A.John 8:38-47
Does Christ Here Assert His Own SinlessnessW. S. Wood, M. A.John 8:38-47
He is a Liar and the Father ThereofS. S. Times.John 8:38-47
He that is of God Heareth God's WordsFamily ChurchmanJohn 8:38-47
He was a Murderer from the BeginningArchdeacon Watkins.John 8:38-47
Hereditary and Spiritual Interest in the CovenantBp. Lake.John 8:38-47
If We Love God We Shall Receive ChristC. H. Spurgeon.John 8:38-47
Love of the Truth Essential to its ReceptionJ. Parker, D. D.John 8:38-47
Love to Jesus the Great TestC. H. Spurgeon.John 8:38-47
Men Hate the TruthSenhouse., R. Smith.John 8:38-47
Men Ought to Love Christ as Coming from GodC. H. Spurgeon.John 8:38-47
Noble Minds Welcome the TruthJ. Fletcher.John 8:38-47
Nominal Christians -- Real InfidelsC. H. Spurgeon.John 8:38-47
Now Ye Seek to Kill MeF. Godet, D. D.John 8:38-47
Pious Relatives or Friends Cannot Save UsJ. Trapp.John 8:38-47
Standing in the TruthNewman Smyth, D. D.John 8:38-47
The Absolute Sinlessness of ChristCanon Liddon.John 8:38-47
The Children of God and of SatanJ. L. Hurlbut, D. D.John 8:38-47
The Children of the DevilJ. Brown, D. D.John 8:38-47
The Christ of History the Revelation of the Perfect ManArchdeacon Farrar.John 8:38-47
The Courage and Triumph of TruthH. H. Dobney.John 8:38-47
The Devil a Liar and a MurdererThos. FullerJohn 8:38-47
The Fate of the Truth TellerJohn 8:38-47
The Folly of UnbeliefH. W. Beecher., C. C. Liddell.John 8:38-47
The Hearer of God's WordJ. Slade, M. A.John 8:38-47
The Inner Life of ChristJ. Parker, D. D.John 8:38-47
The Marks of Divine and Diabolic RelationshipJ. Fawcett, M. A.John 8:38-47
The Need of Spiritual Insight to the Discernment of the TruthJ. Parker, D. D.John 8:38-47
The Perfect Character of Jesus ChristD. Trinder, M. A.John 8:38-47
The Rationale of UnbeliefD. Thomas, D. D.John 8:38-47
The True Children of GodD. Gregg.John 8:38-47
The Works of Abraham and the Works of the JewsJohn 8:38-47
Unbelief, its CauseT. Carlyle.John 8:38-47
Unregenerate Souls Do not Love the TruthS. Charnock.John 8:38-47
We be not Born of FornicationF. Godet, D. D., T. Whitelaw, D. D.John 8:38-47
True Spiritual PaternityB. Thomas John 8:41-47

Had our Lord Jesus been guilty of sin (the very thought is to a Christian mind inexpressibly shocking!), he could not have been all that he actually is to us. As God manifest in the flesh, as the ideal Man, as the all-sufficient Saviour, Christ must needs have been without sin.


1. That of his friends and apostles. Peter designated him "the Holy One and the Just," "who did no sin;" John, "Jesus Christ the righteous," of whom he says, "In him was no sin." Paul, writing to the Corinthians, speaks of Christ as of him "who knew no sin;" and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews refers to him in these words, "Though without sin."

2. That of others. Thus Judas, his betrayer, spoke of the "innocent blood" he had been the means of shedding; Pilate found "no fault in him;" the centurion testified, "This was a righteous Man."

II. OUR LORD'S OWN ASSERTIONS CLAIMING THE PREROGATIVE OF SINLESSNESS. Jesus said, "I have kept my Father's commandments;" "The prince of this world cometh, and findeth nothing in me;" "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" If he were not sinless, either his hypocrisy must have been frightful, or he must have been the subject of the most monstrous delusion that ever possessed an egotistical fanatic.


1. Regard the matter negatively. Was there one of the ten commandments which Jesus broke? From his temptation in the wilderness down to his death upon the cross, he eschewed every evil, and proved himself victorious over every instigation to sin to which others - even good men - would probably in some cases have yielded.

2. Regard the matter positively. There is often presented to men an alternative between vice and virtue, disobedience and obedience to God. Wherever an opportunity occurred for our Lord to do that which was best, he did it. There was unfailing consistency between his teaching and his life; he mixed with sinners, unharmed by the contact; he exhibited all moral excellences in his own character; in holiness he stands supreme and alone among the sons of men.


1. This fact points to, and agrees with, a belief in the Divinity of Jesus.

2. Here is a faultless, perfect Example for all men to study and copy.

3. Here is evidence of our Lord's perfect qualification to be the Saviour and the Lord of man. - T.

If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine (In connection with
1. The Jews marvelled at Christ's spiritual wisdom. The cause of wonder was His want of scholastic education. He said, "My doctrine is not Mine," etc. The principle whereby He attained spiritual wisdom (John 5:30) He extends to all, "If any man." Here, then, are two opinions respecting the origin of spiritual knowledge — the popular one relying on a cultivated understanding, "that of Christ which relied on trained affections and habits of obedience." What is truth? Study, said the Jews. Act said Christ, and you shall know.

2. Religious controversy is fast settling into a controversy between two extreme parties. Those who believe everything, and those who believe nothing, the credulous and the sceptical. The first rely on authority — Romanists and all who receive their opinions because their sect or their documents assert them. The second rely on culture. Enlighten, and sin, which is an error of the understanding, will disappear, and we shall know all that can be known of God. These disciples of scepticism easily become disciples of credulity. It is instructive to see how those who sneer at Christian mysteries believe in the veriest imposture. In opposition to both stands the Christianity of Christ.


1. Its object, " The doctrine." Doctrinal is now opposed to practical. We call the Sermon on the Mount practical, and Paul's epistles doctrinal. But Christ!s doctrine means His teaching and embraces everything tie taught. In two departments of doctrine the principle of the text will be found true.(1) In speculative truth. If any man will do God's will he shall know what is truth and what is error. How is it that men are almost sure to arrive at the conclusion reached by their party? Because fear, interest, and vanity bias them. This hindrance is not to be removed by culture. By removing self-will the way is cleared for an approximation towards unity on points speculative.(2) In practical truths. Our opinions depend on our lives more than our lives on our opinions. Men think in a certain mode because their life is of a certain character, and opinions are invented afterwards as a defence for their life. "Let us eat and drink," etc. First they ate and drank, then believed tomorrow we die. Slavery is defended philosophically. But did not men first make slaves, and then search for plausible reasons? So too a belief in predestination is alleged in excuse of crime.

2. Its certainty. "Shall know," not have an opinion. There is a wide distinction between supposing and knowing, fancy and conviction. Whatever rests on authority remains only supposition. You know when you feel. In matters practical you know only so far as you can do. Read a work on "Evidences," and it may become highly probable that Christianity is true. That is an opinion. Feel God. Do His will, till the Absolute Imperative within you speaks as with a living voice; then you do not think, you know that there is a God.


1. The universe is governed by laws. By submission to them you make them your own. Obey those of the body — temperance and chastity; of the mind — fix the attention, strengthen by exercise; and then their prizes are yours — health, strength, tenaciousness of memory, nimbleness of imagination, etc. Obey the laws of your spiritual being, and it has its prizes too. The condition of a peaceful life is submission to the law of meekness; the condition of the Beatific vision is purity of heart; the condition of spiritual wisdom and certainty in truth is obedience to the will of God. In every department of knowledge, therefore, there is an appointed "organ " for the discovery of its specific truth. In the world of sense, the empirical intellect; here the Baconian philosopher is supreme. The religious man may not contravene his assertions; but in the spiritual world, the organ of the scientific man, sensible experience, is powerless. If the chemist, etc., say we find in the laws of affinity, in the deposits of past ages, in the human frame no trace of God, no one expected they would. Obedience is the sole organ here. "Eye hath not seen it." And just as by copying perpetually a master-painter's works, we get at last an instinctive and infallible power of recognizing his touch, so by copying and doing God's will we recognize what is His — we know of the teaching whether it be of God, or whether it be an arbitrary invention of a human self.

2. The universality of this law. "If any man." In God's universe there are no favourites who may transgress its laws with impunity; none who can take fire and not be burnt. In God's spiritual universe there are no favourites who can attain know. ledge and wisdom apart from experience. See the beauty of this arrangement. If the certainty of truth depended on the proof of miracles, prophecy, etc., then truth would be in the reach chiefly of those who can weigh evidence, investigate, etc.; whereas, as it is, "The meek will He guide in judgment." The humblest may know more by a single act of charity, or a prayer of self-surrender, than all the sages can teach or theologians dogmatize upon.

3. Part of this condition is earnestness. "Will" here is volition, not the will of the future tense. So it is not a chance, fitful obedience that leads to the truth, but one rendered in entireness and in earnest.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

In judging the Bible, there is a great diversity of opinion. One regards it as a mass of contradiction and fable, which interest has imposed on credulity; while another receives it as the oracles of God. Some find in it the atonement and the necessity of a vital change, others see nothing of the sort. Yet these men may be of equally sound judgment in other matters. Nay, the same man views the Bible in all these varied lights at different periods. Does this diversity arise from the Bible or from its readers? If a number of men were placed at different heights, and one should declare that the sun had risen, another that he was rising, and a third that he had not risen, we should ascribe this diversity not to anything in the sun, but to the different altitudes of the observers. The varied judgments on the Bible are to be accounted for in the same way; for —

1. Our text shows us that there is nothing in the Bible which necessarily leads men to err respecting its etc. trines. If our Maker gave a revelation to man, we should expect that it should be attended with such evidences that every man might know that it really came from Him, and that every man might know precisely what it taught. And this has been done. "If any man will do His will, he shall" not be inclined to believe that the Bible is true, but "shall know," etc. The apostles echo this; they say, "We know." God does not make this revelation certain and clear, irrespective of character. We might as well expect the sun to be visible alike to the dwellers in caves or the open air. Both the sun and the Scriptures are so placed that all who place themselves in a proper position may know the truth of the one and see the light of the other.

2. What is this position? "If any man will do." An obedient spirit is the key of Divine truth. The holiest man will best understand the Bible. This is reasonable. Who would think of going to a wicked man to learn religious truth? We feel that he is best qualified to teach who has learnt to practice. The same qualification is necessary in the learner. A rebellious child is more likely to mistake his father's meaning than one who is obedient.

8. We need the aid of the Holy Spirit in discerning spiritual things. The Bible is clear, but we are dark. A man suddenly emerging from long imprisonment is bewildered by the light; so Bible perplexities are due mostly to our sinful blindness. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to cleanse and strengthen the spiritual vision. To whom, then, will God give His Spirit? Not to him who will not follow the light he has. The universal maxim is that to one who improves, more shall be given. And yet wicked men complain that they cannot understand the Bible. As well might a spendthrift complain because he did not receive his father's whole estate. Bishop Wilson says, "When religion is made a science, nothing is more intricate; but when made a duty, nothing is more easy." A French infidel once said to Pascal, "If I had your principles, I should be a better man." "Begin with being a better man, and you will soon have my principles, was the reply.

4. Our subject shows us what they must do who are troubled with doubts. Shall he read volumes of "Evidences"? The first step is to give up sin. Having done this, let him read the Bible with a mind open to conviction. Such a person begins to do the will of God, and he will become a believer in the Word. He hears that prayer is necessary ere he can understand the Bible, and consequently prays, and obedience is again rewarded. Admitting the truth of the Scriptures, he yet finds doctrines he cannot understand. Let him do the will of God, and all that is necessary for him to know about the atonement, regeneration, assurance, etc., will be made clear.

5. We need not stop here. In heaven we shall know, because we shall follow on to know the Lord.

(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

It would have been as easy for God to fill the world with obedient subjects as it is for a man to fill his garden with flowers. If it is only flowers that he wants, he can get them at once and keep them for ever, without any trouble of raising or tilling. He has but to go to a milliner's shop, and take home his treasures and plant them. But suppose he wants living flowers. In that case he wants to know something more than the way to the milliner's shop. He has need of wisdom and patience. Flowers must be cherished and coaxed; they will not grow for the telling. If all that God wanted were obedience, He could make a splendid world to-day. He has but to will it, and all would be orderly in an instant. Not a thought, word, deed, misplaced. Kings and subjects, masters and men, all at peace. No war, untruth, tears; sin and sorrow all gone. But it would be splendid death. No wrong and no right; no tears and no joy. The world would go as a sewing-machine, because it must. That is not the obedience God wants to see. He wants obedience with a heart in it. And so He waits and is patient. A thousand times He comes, and still the door is bolted and barred; and yet again He comes, if haply He may find it open.

(H. W. Burgoyne.)

The ancients tell us that when Jupiter saw men striving for Truth, and pulling her to pieces to secure her for themselves, he sent Mercury, who dressed Error up in the imagery of Truth; and though then men were sure to get but little truth, they were as earnest as ever, and lost peace, too, in their contentions for its image. This is no wonder; but when truth and peace are brought into the world together, to see men contending for the truth to the breach of the peace is the greatest wonder. Disputation cures no vice, but kindles a great many. Christianity is all for practice; and the time spent in quarrelling about it is a diminution to its interest. Christ's way of finding out truth is by doing the will of God. Consider —


1. That there is but one true way is agreed upon, and therefore every Church propounds a system, and says that is the true religion; like Brutus and Cassius, of whom one says, "They supposed themselves were the commonwealth." But of this there can be no end; for divide the Church into twenty parts, and you and your party are damned by the other nineteen.

2. Others conclude that this evil must be cured by submission to an infallible guide; but this can never end our con. troversies, because the greatest controversies are about this guide, and because —

(1)We cannot find any such guide.

(2)Nor do we find one necessary.

(3)Those who pretend to be such are deceived.

(4)They do not believe in their infallibility, for they do not put an end to their own questions.

(5)Given such a one, we should fail of truth, for perhaps he would not perform his duty, or we should at times misunderstand or be perverse. God is an infallible Guide, yet by our faults we are as far off from peace and truth as ever.

3. Some wise men have undertaken to reconcile the differences of Christendom, by projecting that each side should pare away something of their propositions, and join in common terms of accomodation. This has been tried, but has produced nothing but a fantastic peace.

4. Others, observing that many controversies are kept up by ill stating of the question, endeavour to make the matter intelligible; but we find by sad experience that few questions are well stated; and when they are not consented to, and when agreed upon by both parties to be well stated, are simply armies drawn up with skill and waiting to thrust their swords in each others' sides.

5. Some have propounded a way of peace rather than truth — universal toleration. This relies on a great reasonableness, since opinions cannot be forced; and when men receive no hurt, it is to be hoped they will do none. But there are many who are not content that you permit them; they will not permit you. Their way is not only true, but necessary, and all moderation is but want of zeal for God. What is now to be done? Must truth be for ever in the dark, and the world divided? We have examined all ways but one; and having missed in every other, let us try this. Let every man in his station do the duty which God requires of him, and then he shall be taught of God all that is fit for him to learn (Psalm 111:10; Psalm 119:100). Theology is rather a Divine life than a Divine knowledge.


1. No man understands the Word of God unless he lays aside all affections to sin. "Wickedness," said Aristotle, "corrupts a man's reasoning," it gives him false principles and evil measures of things. A covetous man understands nothing to be good that is not profitable. A voluptuary likes your reasoning well enough if you discourse of the pleasures of sense, but if you talk of religion he cries out, "What is the matter?" A man's mind must be like your proposition before it can be entertained. We understand so little of religion because we are in love with that which destroys it; and as a man does not care to hear what does not please him, so neither does he believe it.

2. He that means to understand the will of God must lay aside all inordinate affections to the world. A veil was on the hearts of the Jews (2 Corinthians 3:14), because they looked for a temporal prince and secular advantages, and so they would not accept the poor, despised Jesus. The argument of Demetrius is unanswerable, "By this craft they get their living." When men's souls are possessed by the world, their souls cannot be invested with holy truths, because a man cannot serve two masters or vigorously attend two objects.

3. No man, however learned, can understand God's word, or be at peace on religious questions unless he be a master over his passions. When a man is mingled with his congenial infirmities of anger and desire, he judges of heavenly things accordingly. Truth enters into the heart when it is empty, and clean, and still; but when the mind is shaken with passion, you can never hear the "voice of the charmer, though he charm very wisely." But all this while we are in preparation only. When we have cast off sin, the world, and passion, then we may say, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth"; but we are not yet instructed.


1. This must be taken for a praecognition that every good man is taught of God, and unless He teach us we shall be poor scholars and worse guides. By how much nearer we are to God, by so much better shall we be instructed. This being pre-supposed, we can proceed by wonderful degrees in this Divine philosophy.

2. There is in every righteous man a new vital principle; the spirit of grace is the spirit of wisdom, and teaches us by secret inspirations, effects and energies (1 John 2:27). Which principle divers fanatics, misunderstanding, expect to be conducted by ecstasy. But God's Spirit does not destroy reason, but heightens it. He opens the heart not to attend to secret whispers, but to hear the Word of God, and gives us a new heart to understand it, otherwise the gospel is a dead letter (1 Corinthians 2:14). When the wicked governor asked of Christ concerning truth, Christ gave him no answer. He was not fit to hear it.

3. A good life is the best way to understand reason and religion, because by the experiences and relishes of religion there is conveyed to us a sweetness to which all wicked men are strangers. When reason is raised by the Spirit of Christ, it is turned quickly into experience. So long as we know God only in the ways of men, by learning and dispute, we shall see nothing but a shadow of Him, but when we know Him with the eyes of holiness, we shall hear what we never heard and see what we never saw.

4. There is a sort of God's dear servants, who perfect holiness in His fear, who have a degree of charity and Divine knowledge more than we can discourse of. This is to be felt and not to be talked of. A good man is united to God as flame touches a flame, and combines into glory. He is the friend of God and best knows God's mind.

IV. BY WHAT MEANS IS IT EFFECTED THAT A HOLY LIFE IS THE BEST DETERMINATION OF ALL QUESTIONS, AND THE SUREST WAY OF KNOWLEDGE? Is it to be supposed that a godly man is better enabled to determine the questions of purgatory and transubstantiation? Is a temperate man a better scholar than a drunkard! Answer: In all things in which true wisdom consists, holiness, which is best wisdom, is the surest way of understanding them: And this —

1. Is effected by holiness as a proper and natural instrument, fur naturally everything is best discerned by its proper light. As the eye sees visible objects, and the understanding intellectual, so the spirit the things of the Spirit. Who can tell better what is and what is not true reformation, than he who is truly reformed. He knows what pleases God and can best tell by what instruments He is reconciled (Proverbs 10:31-32).

2. Holiness is not only an advantage to the learning all wisdom and holiness, but for discerning what is wise and holy from what is trifling, useless, and contentious. If God's Spirit be your teacher, He will teach you such truths as will make you know and love God, and become like Him and enjoy Him for ever. But what are you better if any man should teach you whether every angel makes a species, or what place Adam should have lived in if he had not fallen?

3. Holiness is the best way of finding out truth, not only as a natural medium, or as a prudent medium, but as a means by way of Divine blessing (John 14:21). Love is obedience, and we learn His words best when we practise them.

4. When this is reduced to practice and experience, we find not only in practical things, but even in the deepest mysteries, not only the most eminent saints, but every good man, can best tell what is true and reprove an error. He that goes about to understand the Trinity by words of man's invention, he may talk something, but he knows not what. But the good man that feels the "power of the Father,'' to whom the Son has "become wisdom and righteousness," etc., and in whose heart "the love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Ghost," though he understands nothing of what is unintelligible, yet he only understands the mystery of the Trinity. Experience is the best learning. Application:

1. That is no religion whose principles destroy any duty of religion.

2. It is but an ill sign of holiness when a man is busy in little scruples and fantastic opinions about things not concerning the life of religion.

3. That is no good religion which disturbs governments and shakes the foundation of the public peace.

(Jeremy Taylor.)

It is quite possible for any one of us to go out on the street, and by a number of rapid and unnatural revolutions of the body, so to confuse the brain, that all the objects around us, and even the solid earth beneath our feet, will seem to dance before our eyes, and to whirl round and round in a most bewildering confusion. So, also, is it possible for a man to whirl round and round in an unworthy and bad life, until his moral nature is so confused that the most unmoving facts of the moral world will dance before his mental vision, and the very foundations of moral truth be broken up in a mocking, whirling, hopeless maze. But, in both of these cases, the disturbance is within, not without. It is in the eye which sees, not in the things which are seen. So in the case of the sceptic. His disobedience of moral law, the false and unnatural movements of his spirit, have set everything whirling and spinning. Eternal verities now dance before his mind as so many unsubstantial fancies, only because his moral vision has been deranged. And the remedy in both cases is the same. Let the drunken man become sober, and he will see things as they are. Let the sceptic turn to duty, and he will come to know truth. How can the impure man believe in purity? Is it for his interest to do so? Is it for his peace and happiness? Would not such faith work as fire in his veins? Faith fails, and must fail, when life withdraws its support. But a short time ago, I heard of a man whose antecedents were religious and whose own freely formed relations are such also, who publicly, and with all seriousness, questioned the truth of human immortality. Do you ask, What shall be said in explanation of such a phenomenon? Why this — there is no mystery about it. Let that man continue a few years longer in political life (such as he makes it), let him continue a few years longer to grow rich amazingly fast upon an amazingly small salary, and he will have no doubts upon the subjects which he is now debating. He will then be sure that there is no future life; probably also, that there is no God. How can such a man believe in heaven? Has he much interest in it? How can he believe in hell? Has he not too much interest in this? The truth is, the man has so abused his moral nature, so riddled it with transgressions, that it is no longer capable of holding faith — faith in a God who will punish sin. Faith leaks out of such a man, as water runs from the tub which has stood for weeks in the blazing sun. So there are scores around us whose immorality has made them sceptics. They have not grown beyond faith mentally, but they have sunk below it morally. First, the life was lowered, then the creed. First, practice was loosened, and then the creed was liberalized. They first trampled under foot a mother's example, and then into the q-me mire threw her Bible. The new crew was first received on board, and then the new flag was run up to the mast-head. They never thought of changing their views as to the obligations of the Sabbath until they had violated, or wished to violate, its sanctity. Search these persons out, and you will find that the atmosphere in which they live, and through which they look upon spiritual things, is by no means a pure one; and this is the reason why they do not see moral truth clearly, and hold it firmly. One has thickened his atmosphere with a conscienceless greed for gain. Another, with a fierce and unprincipled desire for power. Still another has poured round her the thickening, dead-sweet nebula of silly and senseless pleasure, and from the midst of this she looks out upon spiritual things; seeing them about as clearly as you see the leaves of the tree or the face of the sun through the medium of stained windows.

I. First — A LARGE PART OF MORAL AND RELIGIOUS TRUTH IS PRACTICAL, AND CANNOT BE KNOWN EXCEPT THROUGH EXPERIENCE; THAT IS, THROUGH LIVING IT. You can believe in London — that there is such a place, without ever having seen it. It is a mere exercise of the intellect to do this. So you can demonstrate that the angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles. There is no need, no place, for experience here But take this declaration — a pure and good life is the happiest. How can you, how can any one, surely know whether this is true or not until by experience you test it? So Christ stands before the world and says, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest." But it is not possible for any one to know that this is true or not true until he makes trial — until he actually does come unto Christ. Or, take this declaration — God hears and answers prayer. There is no way of putting this to the test, except by living a life of prayer. And here let me say to those among you who, in the presence of neglected duty, are waiting for more light and stronger faith, that you will wait in vain. You may say, "If I believed all that the Christian does, I would commence." But I tell you that you shall never have more faith until you bow right loyally to the Right which you now see, to Duty already known. The starving man may not wait for more strength before he takes of the food placed before him. Every day that you deny to moral truth already known the obedience of your life, you do so much to obscure this truth.

II. A second justification of the principle of the text is this — SPIRITUAL THINGS ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED. So it is with scientific things. Newton was living, in the atmosphere of science, with the faculty of observation in fullest exercise, or he would not have seen the apple drop. An accident you may call it. But it was an accident which could only have happened to a Newton. So always scientific things are scientifically discerned. A blind man would never have recognized Frauenhofer's spectroscopic lines. Now, there is in man a moral faculty which is set into relation with moral truth. But this faculty, like all others, to be useful, must be exercised. The lapidary tells the quality of the stone by the touch of his tongue. So the tea-taster goes from box to box, by a single taste fixing the value of the box. So the moral faculty, exercised in the direction of truth and duty, becomes quick and unerring to detect them. The conscience, like Ithuriel's spear, discloses falseness and error by a single touch. Many a man who is in no sense intellectually great is yet wonderfully able to disentangle sophistry, to lift the truth which is covered over with error, to cut the path of duty plain and straight through the most tangled maze. You will readily recall here the old phrase of "threading the labyrinth." The one who desired to visit the dark and winding passages used to take the end of a spool of thread in his hand, unwinding it as he went into the maze. And when he desired to return to the light, all that he needed to do was to follow back his guiding thread. Now, to a good man, to an obedient spirit, conscience is this thread. Out of the darkest windings it leads unto the light. There is not that labyrinth of error on earth in which such a man can be lost. He will reach unto the day, as surely as the blind instinct of the cellar vine turns to the sun. I know faith is spoken of as the gift of God. But, like all other gifts of God, this has its conditions. God can no more give it unto a bad life, than He can give beauty and sweetness to the flower which never sees the light, or bone and muscle and strength to the man who will not allow food to pass his lips, or riches to the idler and the spendthrift. I turn now to make some applications of this subject.

1. First — It furnishes a solution of the scepticism of some men of science. Your power of observation may be good, but human eyes cannot take in God as they can a fossil or a planet. They are not the organ of reception here. A man who would come into the presence of God must walk the path which leads unto this presence. There is a hill of science, and there is another hill. We say not, that the former commands not a noble prospect. It does. Is well worth climbing. All that we affirm, and what the Bible declares is, that the outlook from it is not the same as that from the other hill called Calvary. Right living, not sharp thinking, is the condition here.

2. Again — This subject also helps to discern the origin, and to determine the value, of another very common species of scepticism, which we may term popular in distinction from scientific. Many men who are prominent in public life are more or less sceptical. The explanation of the scepticism which you see is to be found in the life, all of which you do not see. And this thought leads naturally to another application of the truth which we are considering.

3. It is this — the fearful danger which attaches to continued impenitence. This impenitence of yours, this holding back from duty, is the slow murdering of your faith.

4. I only add, as a closing application of this subject, that it is useful for direction to those who would enter upon the Christian life. The way to do this is not to wait for more feeling, not to delay for stronger faith, but to take up that duty or duties already known, already before you.

(S. S. Mitchell, D. D.)

In this instance "will do" does not express future action simply. The " will" is not a mere auxiliary, it is an independent verb, and receives the main emphasis of the verse. The revised version correctly renders it: "If any man willeth," etc. The true order of religious knowledge, then —



(3)Knowing.Such an order, however, does not accord with man's preconceived notions. The first statement in the process seems to him superfluous, and the last two appear unnaturally reversed. He raises the objection: "I must know a doctrine before I attempt to put it into practice. For me to undertake to do what I cannot understand is absurd." But how is it in other departments of life and thought? Does theory precede practice, or does practice prepare for theory? Did men never sow and reap until they had analyzed soils and developed the whole system of agriculture? Did they never use wheat until chemistry had taught them just how much gluten, starch, and phosphate there is in that grain, and explained its wonderful adaptation to the human constitution? Did they never lay the four walls of a dwelling until they had reasoned out the geometrical truth that two straight lines cannot enclose a space, and had mastered the entire science of architecture? The question, in fine, resolves itself into this: Is science based upon art, or art upon science? Do children study grammar, or do they learn to talk first? Do they not walk until they have been instructed in the intricate physiological processes and mechanical principles involved in that act? Did men wait until Aristotle had constructed his logic, to reason? Did they write no poetry until the science of prosody had been perfected? Did they never paint pictures until the laws of perspective had been carefully studied, and the theories of combination and contrast in colours were well understood? Now there is a religious art and a religious science, the art of holy living and the science of theology. The relation between the two is most vital. The practice of the one is the indispensable condition of the successful acquirement of the other. As the practice progresses the doctrine develops. Knowledge grows from more to more, and clear conceptions and positive convictions become at length the priceless possession of the soul. But granting the reasonableness of the requirement that doing shall precede knowing, why is it necessary, it may be asked, to make this threefold division and to specify willing? Is not that already implied in the doing? Can there be doing without willing to do? Certainly there can be no rational and responsible action without the forthputting of volition. But this willing means more than that. It means willingness, the moral determination of the mind toward God, the complete submission of the affections and desires to His will, the making of that will our supreme and ultimate choice. Something like this is true of all knowledge. Its attainment is conditioned on the mind's receptivity and openness to the truth. It is only when the mind has divested itself of prepossessions and prejudices, and is supremely anxious to know the truth for the truth's sake, and is willing to follow wherever that truth may lead, that it can succeed in its search. Pascal truly says, "The perception of truth is a moral act"; and Fichte, "If the will be steadfastly and sincerely fixed on what is good, the understanding will of itself discover what is true." Similar testimony is borne by the two great masters of modern science. Prof. Tyndall says of inductive inquiry: "The first condition of success is an honest receptivity, and a willingness to abandon all preconceived notions, however cherished, if they be found to contradict the truth. Believe me, a self-renunciation which has something noble in it, and of which the world never hears, is often enacted in the private experience of the true votary of science." Prof. Huxley goes so far as to say, "The great deeds of philosophers have been less the fruit of their intellect than of the direction of that intellect by an eminently religious tone of mind. Truth has yielded herself rather to their patience, their love, their single-heartedness, and their self-denial, than to their logical acumen." Even the pagan poet, Sophocles, saw and stated this truth: "A heart of mildness, full of good intent, Far sooner than acuteness will the truth behold." This rightness of heart is the one and indispensable condition of all religious knowledge. There the moral disposition is everything. "With a heart man believeth unto righteousness." An absolute renunciation of self, and an unqualified surrender to the Divine will, must precede and give rise to all right doing and all real knowing. In the heart's unreserved consent to the will of God lies the secret of all attainment in religious knowledge. Here is the dividing line between the children of God and aliens. Here is the starting point in spiritual experience. Here is the beginning of true wisdom. In the heart's consent — when that is yielded all else will follow as naturally as noon-day follows the dawn. One who submissively consents to the will of God, will do that will, and in the doing will come to a knowledge of all essential truth.

(Christian Advocate.)

1. It was a frivolous question those Jews raised. It was not whether there was anything in the teaching worth heeding, but how had Christ learned it. Our Lord turns their thought to the question they ought to have asked: Is this the teaching of God This is the first question that any new teaching should raise now; but now, as then, the question is, What is His school? The Bible test of all teaching is, Is it of God? Never mind the school.

2. The old question suggested by Christ is not yet laid. Teachers are in multitudes with all sorts of credentials. But earnest souls are asking, Whence is the teaching? Much of it is countersigned by the schools, but we find the schools wrangling. And not only rival books and systems make trouble for us. We are pointed to facts, and told that God teaches by providence as well as His Word, and yet many of the facts are ugly. The seething deeps of society throw to the surface horrible practical problems not classified in the canons of Westminster and Dort. The tendency of a good many minds is to set down the whole matter as a hopeless muddle.

3. And yet thus much is plain. Given the Being we are taught to believe in and worship, and obey as God, an intelligible revelation of His will follows of necessity, else loyalty and duty are the veriest farce. And if Christ is to be believed, all the teaching necessary to blessed and useful living is clearly given by God. "The light is with you," He tells the Jews, "walk while ye have it." Christ claims to be this light, and to meet the demand for God's teaching. "My teaching is that of Him who sent Me." "So far, well," says the world. "That is a fair response to our challenge; but how shall we test it? How shall we know?" Christ answers, "By experiment. Practice the teaching and it will vindicate itself as Divine."

4. Christ thus puts practice before knowledge, and as a means to it, and in this lays down no arbitrary or unfamiliar law. The best of our knowledge, all of it that is useful, is gained through practice. So the teaching of Christ will not vindicate itself as of God by merely studying it. No man ever learned to paint or play by mastering the theories of painting and music. He must handle the brush and finger the keys himself. Doing is a mode of study. Practice vindicates theory. Christ thus invites the fairest, simplest, and most decisive test of His teaching. Try and see if it works.

I. THE FIRST STEP TOWARD KNOWING THE TEACHING OF GOD IS A DETERMINATION TO DO IT. Will means, not wish, but resolution. A man says, "I should like to know how to write shorthand." That is all it comes to. Another says, "I will learn shorthand," and goes to work at it. There is the difference. There is a great deal of vague wishing and talking about wanting to know God's will. Not a few take it for granted that the teaching of God is a hazy sort of thing, and rather comfort themselves with this haziness, and take refuge in it from clear dictates of duty. Christ nowhere concedes this haziness. He sets the teaching of God in the light, and says, "Man shall know," and the first step towards that is determination. Some people take the attitude of willingness to know if knowledge shall be forced on their conviction; but God's teaching is not brought in that way; it is something to be won, and a man's professed willingness is a sham if it do not translate itself into the energy of a resolved will.

II. This energy displays itself in subjection. If one wills to do another's will, he puts himself under that will absolutely, and obeys it, surrendering his own. Christ here lays down no new or arbitrary law. Everywhere obedience is the first step in learning — doing what is told because another wills it. A child sits down to take his first lesson in music, and knows not what it tends to; but the teacher knows. By and by, through the mechanical drudgery, rudimental conceptions of harmony begin to take shape, and so on until he interprets the works of a Beethoven. Many fail in Divine knowledge because they do not like to obey without knowing the reason why. They want God to treat them as equals, not as inferiors. "Except ye become as little children," etc. There is a system and a plan-book of all the details of obedience, but the way to them is by these details.

III. TEACHING YOU BY PRACTICE, GOD WILL GIVE YOU LESSONS OUT OF MUCH BESIDES BOOKS. You are resolved to follow Christ's method: well, the practical test is, are you ready to do the first thing Christ tells you? In that case your first teacher will probably be not a robed priest or grave professor, but some troublesome beggar or disturbing child. Your lesson-book may open at that commonplace occasion which calls for a kind word or deed, a restraint of temper or sacrifice of convenience. Through your bearing your brother's burden, and taking his sorrow on your heart, you have got a look into God's heart, and a conception of God's vast tender meaning towards humanity underlying His teaching about love, etc. And so, more and more, you find yourself, not only gaining new knowledge, but gaining it by a new and unsuspected way.

(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)


1. This knowledge, though its propositions are to be received by the intellect, requires before the intellectual a certain moral capacity. The will must be set to do the will of God before the intellect can act without embarrassment, because the doctrine is not the teaching of a philosophy, but the revelation of a person. All the doctrine is impersonated in Him, so that to receive Him is to receive the doctrine, and to reject Him is to reject the doctrine.

2. Acts done by a person receive their truest significance from what we know of himself. The revelation of a person by his acts is often imperfect and misleading. We need to know that hidden link between the act and the motives. This is why historians, admitting the same facts, differ so widely in their estimates of the persons, e.g., Henry VIII., Mary, Elizabeth. This must be so because the mystery of a second personality lies beyond the acts, and because it is apprehended by one possessing the same mysterious gift, and is therefore apprehended, not in its bare proportions, but according to the conditions of the receptive faculty. Even in the more delicate processes of modern art, with what care must the negative surface be prepared which is to receive aright the lines and proportion of the object it is to image forth. Now, in the living recipient of the impress of another's character the difficulty is immeasurably increased. There is formed a relation of concord or antagonism, and motives, and a meaning is attributed by the observer to the outward actions. The same act is welcome or intolerable as our minds picture the motive, and this affects the whole power of comprehending a character. This is the reason of the solitariness to which the greatest spirits are exposed. Such are almost always misjudged, not because they give occasion for it, but because in those around them the receptive faculty is not qualified to sustain the impress of their great being. It is only some one with a kindred gift of genius who is able to understand them.

3. Here, then, we may see why, from the laws of our own nature, it is true that he who wills to do the will of God comes to know the Lord. It is like which comprehends and is drawn to the like. Now the law of Christ's being was the doing the will of the Father. When, therefore, the will of any man is set not to do the will of God, there is a repugnancy between him and Christ which forbids his knowing the Lord of Life, and conversely.

II. THE PROMISE OF A REVELATION AND OF POWER TO RECEIVE IT. Christ stood among men not so much their intellectual teacher as their renewer. These words are not only a mapping out of man's nature, but are also a promise of grace. That first turning of the will was itself, doubtless, in the mystery of the spiritual probation of one gifted with free agency, the yielding to grace already given: and this next step marks the increased gift of that same grace. It is the carrying out of the promise "to him that hath shall be given." "If any man love God," even in this first bending of the will to Him, "the same is known of Him," and such knowledge is but the first beginning of greater gifts; the pledge that forthwith the power of the receptive faculty is increased, and of a greater revelation (chap. John 14:21). And in that is all that the soul needs (Revelation 3:20). From its recipient many of the old difficulties which beset his belief melt away, like the mist of the morning before the sun; and even those which do remain, and must remain until faith is exchanged for sight, no longer hide from him the truth they once shut out; he has risen to a loftier elevation, and his eye now ranges freely over the intermediate heights, and takes in the fair proportions of the land which is very far off. Conclusion.

1. Encouragement. To every one who has that will, the text assures a certain grant of all he desires. If the Authorized Version were correct it would not speak in the same tone of comfort; for who would dare to decide that He did the will of the Father? But these words promise the great benediction to him who wills to do the Father's will; to him who, in the midst of failures and discouragements, still holds on because his will is set; to the beginner in the Christian course as well as to him who has reached furthest in it. And this it proposes to all. If there be one tried by intellectual difficulties concerning the revelation of Christ; if there be hearts longing for this revelation of Him who seems hidden, let them take comfort. The time of granting the revelation rests with Him, bus granted it must be. It may be thou "couldest not bear it now"; that thou hast more to learn of thyself, a deeper self distrust; that thy imperfect graces need a higher training; that He would first strengthen thy spirit by wrestling with Him. But though the vision tarries, wait for it, for it is sure at last.

2. Warning. The text explains why so many miss God, not from lack of any mere power of intellect, not from mental perplexities, not from obscurity of texts or Bible difficulties, but from alienation of the soul, For it is not through a direct act of the will that a man can make himself believe or disbelieve; but under the power of God's grace a man can by degrees so educate His will that it does one way or the other determine his belief. Any allowed habit of sin is whether we know it at the time or not, really hardening our will against the will of Christ, and so making a true filial trust impossible.

(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)

1. The doctrine here taught is that if a man be sincere and accept the truth that God's will is to be supreme, he shall be able to determine God's doctrine. The sufficiency of sincerity in religion is loudly proclaimed. It is supposed to be the solvent of all religious difficulties. It is set up as the antagonist of doctrine, and as performing a function the exact opposite of that assigned to it here. With Christ it was the high road to truth; with some modern thinkers it is its substitute. Where there is such a contradiction of view as to the function of sincerity there must be some difference of judgment as to its meaning.

2. The sincerity which alternates the importance of truth cannot be the same as that meant to find truth. A languid, sentimental desire to be right is far from a purpose to do the will of God. We may desire to be learned and yet not study, and desire to be wealthy without self-denial and enterprize. Consider some of the tests of true sincerity.


1. No man is in complete ignorance of the Divine will; for no one is in complete ignorance of right and wrong, which have their roots in the Divine nature. Conscience is more or less a Divine witness within all men, and is supported by the facts of life, the consequences of actions; for we learn that that which is injurious cannot be His will, and that that which promotes the general happiness must. Our Saviour is con- templating the case of such as are in doubt whether His teaching on some matters be true, but who have some acquaintance with the will of God. The advice to the same class now-a-days is the same. Do the will of God as far as you know it, and you will know of the doctrine of which you are at present in doubt whether it be of God.

2. This is not exhorting a man to set about the work of saving himself instead of exhorting him to believe. The Saviour is dealing with doubters who think they have reasons for doubting. A man cannot drive out his doubts by a mere act of will. Besides, a man is morally bound to do God's will whatever the consequences. If he knows it to be the will of God that he should be truthful, sober, etc., it is his duty to eschew the opposite, whether he ever become a believer in Christ or not. If renunciation of evil will not help his salvation it will not hinder it; and it is obvious that no one can earnestly desire to know any doctrine whether it be of God unless he honours God by compliance with what he knows to be His will. For what can be a man's purpose in desiring to know any doctrine except that he may derive benefit from it? An inefficacious doctrine which impels no man to a Diviner life cannot be of any importance, and no one can sincerely desire to know a doctrine which constrains to a better life unless he is already yielding a loyal obedience to the laws he knows to be from God.

3. The difficulty of gaining admission for truth into the minds of men whose lives are in disconformity with it is proverbial. If a man's interests or pleasures are involved in his continuance of any course of action, you know what a mass of evidence is required to convince him that he is wrong. If a craft, however iniquitous, be in danger, how hard to convince those who are enriching themselves by its gains! Hence the opinions of men are as frequently the product of their practices as their cause. Thieves do not first excogitate evil maxims and then begin to steal. The worse the man the worse his principles, and the better the man the better his principles, as a rule.

4. If a man be willing to do the will of God he will be watchful against the prepossessions which would hinder him from knowing that will. We may inherit opinions from our fathers, as we inherit property, and there may gather around them a sort of halo. But hereditary beliefs, which are no more than notions, are of no value; and if any man be willing to do God's will he must be prepared to relinquish all traditions which are merely such. Christ contemplates the man to whom all light is welcome from any quarter. It may disturb old convictions, alter the proportions and relations of truths, but to know the will of God is worth it all.


1. Who can set himself to this higher life without a sense of the contrast between it and that which he has been leading. The birth of this heavenly resolution is not unmixed pleasure. The man feels that, however he may do the will of God in the future, the claims of the past are not cancelled by this altered life. What has infinite Justice to say to it? Is it not just here that the soul welcomes the cry "Behold the Lamb of God," etc., and the assurance that Christ has been set forth as a propitiation? Does he not feel that the doctrine is Of God, whatever its mysteries, because it addresses itself to the awakened conscience and does not sweep justice away that it may find room for mercy, but blends the claims of both.

2. And we can see how this purpose leads to the knowledge of another doctrine — the necessity for the influence of the Holy Spirit. No one knows how much he needs supernatural help until he sets himself to lead a holy life, for not until then is he adequately conscious of the difficulties. But is it not just at this point that we welcome the doctrine that the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and that we can be strengthened with might by that Spirit in our inner man?

(E. Mellor, D. D.)

Congregational Remembrancer.
I. THE REQUIREMENT to do the will of God. Included in it is —

1. A desire to have just and correct views of that will.

2. A disposition to acquiesce in it, and give it a cordial reception.

3. Practical conformity to it.

4. A willingness to surrender what is incompatible with obedience.

5. A sincere concern about real religion and the salvation of the soul.

II. THE PROMISE — "he shall know," etc.

1. This alone will break the force of prejudice.

2. It will put restraint upon evil propensities, which, if indulged, cannot fail to obstruct the acquisition of religious knowledge.

3. It will lead to the right use of the necessary means.

4. It will direct the mind towards God, seeking His guidance and blessing.

5. It will give us a due impression of our responsibility.

(Congregational Remembrancer.)

Generally we mean by evidences of Christianity proofs which mostly appeal to the educated. What, then, are the illiterate to do? Have they no sufficient reason for believing the Bible to be God's Word, beyond the fact that it is received as such by their Church and country? This would be to place their faith on a very precarious foundation; and we know that cottagers and artizans have been as well able to withstand scepticism as "the wise and prudent." Our text satisfactorily accounts for the matter by declaring that a readiness to do God's will shall be followed by a discovery of the origin of the doctrine. It sets before us a method of demonstration which may be tried by the ignorant as well as by the learned, inasmuch as it must be worked out by the heart rather than by the head.


1. This readiness marks honesty of character and freedom from those prejudices which impede the search for truth.(1) A man who sets himself to investigate a doctrine may see that if established it will entail duties he has no wish to perform; and what chance is there of his deciding that the doctrine is true when he desires to prove it false? It would be greatly for the interest of a worldly-minded man to prove Christianity false; he would get rid thereby of much that menaces him in his pleasures, and secure himself against the pleadings of conscience. His disposition is opposite to that of our text: in place of a readiness to do God's will, whatever that may be, there is an eagerness to keep it out of sight whenever at variance with his own. How then can it be expected that, prejudiced against Christianity and inclined to its rejection, he could be a fair judge of evidences.(2) But suppose a man anxious to discover God's will that he may perform it: we may be sure that he is already striving to be obedient up to the full measure of his knowledge. There could not be this readiness if the conduct were not regulated by such portions of the Divine will as have already been ascertained, it follows from this that he will not be the slave of depraved inclinations, and therefore will search after truth with the clearheadedness of one whose understanding is not darkened by mists which rise from a heart in love with vice. And, further, it is evident that, as he is prepared to obey if he can determine what is truth, he will not be swayed by partialities; he has no private interest to serve, and we may therefore calculate on his conducting his inquiry with that fairness and integrity of purpose which almost ensure that his conclusions will be sound. Is it likely that such a man should fall into fatal error? Impossible, for —

2. You must add to considerations drawn from the structure of the human mind that the special assistance of God may be expected. The attributes and Word of God clearly pledge Him to communicate a knowledge of His will wherever faithfully sought. If it be a principle in the Divine dealings to give over to a reprobate mind those who like not to retain God in their knowledge, and allow the understanding to be darkened to believe a lie, when they take pleasure in unrighteousness, it must be equally a principle with God to guide the meek in judgment, and to teach the meek His way, so that they who heartily seek shall assuredly discover the will of God. Therefore we believe that the Holy Spirit will assist every man who, with readiness to obey, proceeds to examine the Bible. What does all this assume? That the Bible is its own witness, and can prove of itself that it came from God. There is an evidence of God speaking in the Bible, which is only to be found and appreciated where certain moral qualities are possessed, and is fully as convincing as the combined testimony of miracles and prophecy.(1) The Bible sets out with a broad statement of human corruption, and descending into particulars, it speaks of the deceitful heart; of the tendency of the affections to fasten on anything rather than God, etc. As the man of honest mind peruses this stern and revolting picture of himself, and compares what he reads with what he feels, the comparison assures him of the accuracy of the delineation.(2) The self-evidencing power of the Bible is seen further in what it says of our salvation. The man who has felt himself to be a sinner will be conscious of such a suitableness in the whole scheme of redemption as will be an irresistible argument in favour of its truth. If the adaptation of the material world to our natural circumstances be allowed as good evidence that God made the world, the just as exact adaptation of the gospel to our spiritual circumstances should be received as good evidence that God planned the gospel.(3) There is yet another evidence, that which results from putting Scripture to the proof, and finding it made good. If I act on the directions, and find myself a partaker of its promises, I am witness that both are of God. If the Bible tells me that if I pray in Christ's name I shall obtain what I need — if thus praying I receive — if it tell me that through believing in Christ I shall be progressively sanctified, and I find holiness following on faith, etc., there is a growing evidence of the Divine origin of Scripture.

II. THE PRACTICAL INFERENCE — a readiness to perform God's will is the great security and guide to its discovery. If the doctrines of Scripture remain hidden it is not through deficiency of revelation or defect of intellectual power. The only reason for the rejection of those doctrines is one derived from the heart, not from the head. You would quickly comprehend the truth if you were prepared to make it the rule of your practice. Do I wish to be convinced? would be a hard question for many readers and hearers. Should I like to be taken at my word? would be a hard question in the hour of prayer. Men talk very plausibly of not being answerable for their faith, as though it were not optional to believe or disbelieve; but it is optional whether to mortify or indulge a passion, whether to persist in or abstain from practices which are sure to warp the understanding and influence its decisions. Let what will be said of Bible mysteries and the weakness of human faculties, regulate your life by what you know, and you will be sure to know more. So that in our text lies a principle on which the last Judgment may proceed, one on which every unbeliever may be tried and condemned.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

The error of the Jews is the error of many to-day. The humblest class falls into it. They say, "We cannot be expected to have much religion; we were not educated." The intellectually proud make the same mistake. Both classes forget that, as Jesus reminds us, the first condition of certainty in Divine things is formed by the conscience, not by the intellect; and lies not in book learning but in the disposition of the soul, its willingness to do God's will.

I. THE PRINCIPLE HERE ANNOUNCED. Lay emphasis on each word.

1. "Do His will." Doing is the way of knowing in things Divine. Lord Bacon discovered the instrument of the physical sciences — careful experiment and observation. Before his time men speculated and dreamed. Since his time men have learned to know. Jesus promises satisfaction in another region, and reveals a method adapted to the end. We are to know the teachings of God not by sensible experiment, "Eye hath not seen"; nor by mental toil, but by being true to God, conscience, life. There is nothing unreasonable in this. Pascal says, "In the things of men, by knowing we come to love; in the things of God, by loving we come to know." In things moral you cannot suspend action till you have learned. Some of you say that you have not settled, e.g., if God hears prayer, if there be a day sacred to God, if there be a judgment, if Christ be the supreme Lord; and yet you are acting in your prayerless, sinful life as if these questions were settled on the negative side, and thus are daily annihilating your only excuse, viz., that you had not made up your mind whether the doctrine was of God.

2. "If any man be willing." It would have filled men with despair if Christ had made knowledge contingent on perfect obedience. Then the way of salvation would have been barred for ever to every child of Adam. What He says is, " If any man have this disposition, if it be his supreme desire to be right with God, then he shall know now. Only observe He requires not a fit of obedience in a life of disobedience, not a mood of willingness when things go well with us, but a constant and cherished disposition.

3. "His will." What is that? Some say Christianity. But Jesus could not have meant, "first do what I tell you, and then you will know whether to believe what I say." They were in doubt about whether He was the Christ; but had they been willing to do the will of God as they knew it in their own Scriptures they would have had no doubt at all. "If ye had believed Moses ye would have believed Me." Now if any man presents himself in our day in this attitude, saying that he wants to be convinced of the truth of Christ and His gospel, the principle touches him exactly. Are you willing to do God's will as far as you know it? Are you living up to what is binding on conscience, then, fuller light will come and you will know of this doctrine.


1. To those who are anxious to escape the whirlpool of unbelief. Take some cases.(1) A man takes religion speculatively, as a thing chiefly of proofs, and says, "I will accept revelation when I am satisfied as to its claims." Now when a man's disposition is to throw the burden of proof upon God, and treats his Maker as bound to render him a reason in everything, and remove all possibility of mistake, he is hopelessly distant from salvation. If a man refused to enter upon any enterprise till he was ensured against all failure he would be reckoned a fool. The doubter is never the discoverer. It is the truth seeker that finds the truth.(2) There are others who are not so much sceptical as captious, and are apt to shift the real question. They think they have decided for "evolution," not knowing much about it. They have gathered from newspapers, etc., something of the controversies about some of the books of Scripture, and not having much furniture in their minds on the subject, they come more easily to a conclusion, and are inclined to decide against standard beliefs. Now, when such things are presented as serious difficulties we must instantly go deeper. The real question is not one concerning science or criticism, but how a man can be just with God. He has not lived so long in the world without sinning against the will of God as already known. Is his real anxiety to be at peace with God? If God has revealed His will at all it is to bring about this end; and if the end for which he desires to know God's will be not chiefly to this purpose, it matters very little what a man holds about the Bible or what he rejects. "Seek ye, then, first the kingdom of God," etc.(3) Here is another, who seems to be in earnest. He is a truth-seeker who examines as one whose life depends on the issue. So you found him in youth and find him still, giving his whole life so that he may be able to outsoar every doubt; but till then — What? Wasted youth, duty neglected — a vain and sinful dream. "Awake thou that sleepest," etc. If the truth is to be of any use to me whose life is but a breath, and I am to live by it, I must find it speedily.

2. This method of Christian evidence is of manifold application to believers. There are religious difficulties that all must meet in some form, which arise from the mysterious ways of Providence, the slow progress of the gospel, the fate of the heathen, etc. The principle of our text points to the right solution. "Lord, what shall this man do? What is that to thee? Follow thou Me." "Lord, are there few that be saved?" Be saved, and then thou shalt know as much of salvation as can be understood on earth.

3. The action of this principle on those who have submitted to God is obvious. The longer I love my Friend, the closer I walk with Him, the better I get to know Him; because I learn to sympathize more thoroughly with Him as I grow more like Him.

(J. Laidlaw, D. D.)

KNOWLEDGE is not a mere possibility or privilege, but a fundamental, universal necessity. Matter is governed by natural laws, and the brute creature by instinct, but man can become what he ought to be by obedience to knowledge, and by the use of reason. The pebble, the lily, arid the oak are what they are, with no conscious activity on their part. The beaver builds his dwelling place to-day as he did a thousand years ago; but man acts under higher laws. If he ignore knowledge, his powers become his shame. If they do not build him a throne, they will dig him a grave. He will sink even lower than the brute. Therefore it is incredible to suppose that certainty of knowledge is unattainable as to the life that is and that which is to come. Man lives not by bread alone. He must meet the burning problems of a higher life, and Christianity opens the door to certainty. He is not left in doubt, but "he shall KNOW of the doctrine." Four lines of argument, in the validation of religious truth, may be, though no one test alone may be capable of universal application.


1. The main facts of Christianity lie in the brief compass of the three years of Christ's public ministry — and these have been subjected to the severest tests of historic criticism. From out the fiery crucible the four gospels come unharmed.

2. The testimony which the conquests of the Cross afford, as those conquests spread throughout the Roman empire. All over the known world the truths of Christ's death and resurrection were preached, revolutionizing the race by their peaceful triumphs.

3. The present energy of Christ in the world. The fame of Homer grows dim. Men have even questioned His existence; but Christ was never before so truly alive as to-day. We may rest upon the certainty of the gospel that centres in Him.

II. MORAL, that which dwells on the beauty, purity and consistency of the teachings of our Lord. An immoral religion cannot endure. To the matchless glory and beauty of God, and of Christ His Son, the human reason and affections respond immediately. So, too, to the august dignity of the soul and its grand destiny, man's moral nature answers at once. These sublime, unique ideas are above the range of his unaided thought. They must be of Divine origin. This argument shades into another.

III. HYPOTHETICAL, the argument from probabilities. This has a high place in science. We want a working theory. We collect facts, guess, and then verify, Nature is full of mysteries. We stand before closed doors holding a bunch of keys. We try one after another till we find one that will fit. Then the door swings open to us. How is sinning man to be saved? Theories of education, philosophy and politics have been tried in vain. The monk, ascetic, teacher, and statesman failed. Christianity solved the problem, and it alone. By it the work is done in the world, in society, and in man's heart. The fact we know, although the methods of God's Spirit are unknown. We know not how heaven's mystic fires were lighted, or how they now are fed; nor can we explain the coming or going of the Sun of Righteousness, who scatters the darkness of sin, and gladdens the earth as the garden of the Lord. Peace, hope and courage come where He is heard and heeded.

IV. EXPERIMENTAL. Doing the will of God illumines the pathway of the obedient disciple. Jesus brings peace to the soul that trusts and serves Him. We may not appreciate other arguments fully, but this is both personal and practical. To the doubter we simply say, "Come and see"; "taste and see that the Lord is gracious."

(A. J. Behrends, D. D.)

Christianity is emphatically a system of truth. But what gives it pre-eminence is that it is a system of saving truth. This being so, it is important that we should know how best to become aquainted with it. Man's mode differs from God's, man says "read, study," etc.; God says, "Obey." The truths of Christianity can only be understood by those who are willing to obey God, and who are in harmony with Him. Apply this to —

I. THE DOCTRINAL TRUTHS OF CHRISTIANITY. No serious person can observe the prevalence of scepticism without asking the cause.

1. The doubters themselves say —

(1)The surroundings of Christianity are so mysterious that there seems no way of getting at its truths.

(2)Some of the doctrines are so inexplicable that there seems no possibility of obtaining a rational comprehension of them.

(3)The evidences are defective.

2. These are not the real reasons. The real cause is not intellectual but moral. Christ settles that for us, "Men love darkness rather than light," "If any man will do His will." The condition is not perfect obedience; but full purpose to obey God's will as far as discovered. The sceptic's will is against Christianity. He does not wish it to be true, and therefore objects to its being proved true. A variety of motives lie behind.

(1)Fear of old companions.

(2)Self interest. A change of opinion would involve loss.

(3)Vanity. A change of opinions would bring the imputation of fickleness.

(4)Party spirit.

(5)A bad heart and life. A true creed is a constant protest against evil.

3. In order to form a right conception of the doctrine of Christ, there are hindrances which must be removed. Self-will must be conquered, and prejudices laid aside. In scientific investigation, if your supreme object be the confirmation of your previous opinions, you will find it an agreeable task to lay aside every evidence that would overthrow them. But if your supreme object be truth, then you will not suffer yourself to be hampered by your old theory, but you will welcome light from whatever source. This is what Christ requires. Test His system by obeying its laws. In Corinth doubts had arisen about the Resurrection, and St. Paul constructs a magnificent argument to meet them. But in the midst he breaks off with "Be not deceived," etc., a statement around which the whole argument revolves. Corrupted by evil surroundings, their life had become wrong, and hence their creed became wrong. "Give yourselves to righteousness and you shall know of the doctrine." A young man brought up religiously leaves his rural home for the great city. He yields to temptation — does it a second time and a third, until it becomes a habit. It is thus inconvenient to retain his belief in the Bible because it protests against his wickedness. There may be cases in which creed influences life, but mostly life shapes creed.

II. THE MORAL TRUTHS. These are acknowledged to be the noblest the world has known. We hear no objection against Christianity based on their imperfection, but on their purity. There are commands, says the sceptic, that no man can comply with. The answer to this is not argument but facts. Men have embodied Christ's precepts. Godless surgeons have witnessed the peace and joy of their agonizing patient with amazement, because they did not themselves know of the doctrine. Men have suffered wrong with patience and returned good for evil, and have confounded their unchristian neighbours for the same reason. How are they to learn the secret? Not by reading essays or hearing orations on submission and forgiveness, but by practising these things in humble dependence on God's Spirit. "Exercise thyself unto godliness." Aristotle said, "Things we learn to know we learn by the doing of them." But men want to learn things without this — patience without being patient, meekness without forgiving, heaven without walking in the way, God without prayer. How can He? Christ's method is to learn by doing. Virtue must go before knowledge. Grow in grace, etc. (2 Peter 1:5, cf 8).


1. There is in Christianity, not only something to be believed, but something to be felt. Some of its truths are beyond the range of the intellect. There is a "peace which passeth understanding," "joy unspeakable," "love which passeth knowledge." These belong to the heart, and to feel them is to know them. There is a great difference between having an opinion and knowing. You may master the "evidences," and believe that Christianity is Divine — but that is only an opinion. Feel God, realize His power, do His will until Christ is formed within you, then you know that Christianity is true. Fellow Christian! you are mourning the withdrawal of the Divine favour, your spirit is beclouded, you have faltered in some duty. What is the remedy? Return and run in the way of God's commandments and the sun will shine upon you again.

2. In a healthy body the organs are fitted for the discharge of their separate functions — the eye for seeing, the palate for tasting. But these are only witnesses, they report to the mind which can please itself about believing the testimony. I am jaundiced to-day and my eye tells me that the grass is yellow; or fevered, and my palate tells me that honey is bitter. So when a carnal man looks at religion he pronounces it sad. But the fault is not in religion but in himself. The fever of sin is in his soul, he has an evil eye. In order to know the truth of God he must have a heart in sympathy with holiness, then he will know of the doctrine.

3. Modern rationalists will not accept this testimony of experience. They judge of Christianity by the eye of reason alone But there is enough to demand both eyes. Take a man who has studied scientifically our coal formations. He can tell you its component parts, and discriminate between different kinds. But suppose that man crossing the Alps in a snow storm, of what avail is his theory when perishing of cold? Look, on the other hand, at the weary son of toil wending his way to his cottage home exposed to the bitter blast. He seats himself before the fire. He cannot tell what that is made of which warms him, but he knows something better. He feels the heat. So it is with religion. Let those who please take the theory; give me to feel the glow.Conclusion.

1. Let us admire the benevolence of God in making this the condition of knowing. It places the proof of Christianity within the reach of all.

2. But the truth is also very admonitory. "The wicked shall not understand."

(R. Roberts.)

I. THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST. This consisted of —

1. Matters of belief relating to His person and offices. These seemed such as not only brought a new religion into the world, but to require a new reason to embrace it.

2. Matters of practice, such as were enforced by the Sermon on the Mount — Self-denial, purity of heart, etc. These were what grated hardest on men. For their religion had degenerated into mere outward action, and when that failed, there was expiation ready. Amongst all their sacrifices they never sacrificed one lust. Bulls and goats bled apace, but neither the violence of the one, nor the wantonness of the other ever died a victim on their altars. No wonder, then, that a doctrine which arraigned the irregularities of the most inward affections raised such a disturbance.


1. These arguments were in themselves convincing.(1) All the Divine predictions received their completion in Christ. In Him they met with such lustre as if the penmen of them were not prophets but evangelists. Could He have all the signs and not be the thing signified? Could all the shadows that were cast from Him belong to any ether body?(2) He performed miracles, and surely there cannot be a greater reason for belief than for a man to say, "This is the Word of God, and to prove it I will do what nothing can do but the Almighty power of that God who can neither deceive nor be deceived." And His enemies could not deny His miracles.

2. Their insufficiency, if there could be any, was not the cause of unbelief.(1) Because those who rejected Christ's doctrine and arguments believed other things on less evidence. They believed the miracles of Moses, but only by tradition, which, though sufficient, was not equal to that evidence of sense which supported Christ's.(2) They believed things which were neither evident nor certain but only probable; for they frequently ventured their fortunes upon a probable belief of the honesty of those they traded with. And interest in worldly matters, especially with a Jew, never proceeds but upon a supposal, at least, of a firm bottom.(3) They believed in things not so much as probable, but actually false, such as the absurd stories of their rabbins (John 5:43).

III. THE TRUE CAUSE OF THIS UNBELIEF — the captivity of the will and affections to lusts directly opposite to the design and spirit of Christianity. To see this, notice —

1. That the understanding in its assent to any religion is very differently wrought upon in persons brought up in it, and in persons converted to it. In the first it finds the mind unprepossessed, and so easily gains upon the assent and incorporates into it. But in persons adult and already prepossessed with other notions the understanding cannot change these without labour and examination.

2. In this great work the understanding is chiefly at the disposal of the will. For though it is not in the power of the will directly to cause or hinder the assent of the understanding, yet it is antecedently in the power of the will to apply the understanding to or take it from consideration of objects to which without consideration it cannot assent. From these two we have the true reason of the Pharisees unbelief; for they could not relinquish Judaism and embrace Christianity without considering both religions. And this their understanding could not apply to if it were diverted by their will, and their will would be sure to divert it, being wholly possessed and governed by their covetousness and ambition which abhorred Christianity. See John 5:44; Luke 16:14 — in both of which there is an incurable blindness caused by a resolution not to see; and to all intents and purposes, he who will not open his eyes is as blind as he who cannot.


1. Upon the account of God's goodness and the method of His dealing with men; which is to reward every degree of sincere obedience to His will with a further discovery of it. The Psalmist (Psalm 119:10) got the start of the ancients in the point of obedience, and thereby outstripped them at length in point of knowledge. And who in the old time were the men of extraordinary revelation but the men of extraordinary piety? The Enochs, Abrahams, Daniels, etc., who walked with God; and surely he who walks with another is likelier to understand another than he who follows him at a distance.

2. Upon the account of natural efficiency, for as much as a will so disposed will engage the mind in a severe search into the truths of religion, and accompany the search with two dispositions principally productive of the discoveries of truth, viz.,(1) Diligence. Steady, constant study naturally leads the soul into the knowledge of that which at first seemed locked up from it, and keeps the understanding in that long converse with a subject that brings acquaintance. But the will is the great spring of this diligence, for no man can heartily search after that which he is not very desirous to find. Diligence is to the understanding as the whetstone to the razor, but the will is the hand that must apply one to the other. This is true in science, and it is true also in religion.(2) Impartiality. It is scarcely possible for him to hit the mark whose eye is glancing upon something beside it. Partiality is the understanding's judgment according to the inclination of the will and the affections, and not according to the exact truth of things. Affection is a briber of the judgment; and it is hard for a man to admit a reason against the thing he loves, or to confess the force of an argument against an interest. But impartiality strips the mind of prejudice and passion, keeps it right, and even from the bias of interest and desire, and so presents it equally disposed to the reception of all truth. Where diligence opens the door of the understanding, and impartiality keeps it, truth is sure to find both an entrance and a welcome. Conclusion:

1. The true cause of scepticism is not from anything wanting in religion. Men question its truth because they hate its practice. Few practical errors are embraced on conviction, but inclination. It is impossible for one engaged in an evil way to have a clear understanding of it, and a quiet mind in it. If men would change their lives there would be no difficulty in changing their judgments. For, notwithstanding all their empty talk of reason, persuade but the covetous man not to deify his money, etc., and these objections would vanish. For a good man is three quarters his way to his being a Christian whatsoever he is called.

2. We learn the most effectual means for growth in the knowledge of religious truth. It is a knowledge that men are not so much to study as to live themselves into; a knowledge that passes into the head through the heart. And where a long course of piety and communion with God has purged the heart and rectified the will, and made all things ready for the reception of God's Spirit, knowledge will break in with such a victorious light that nothing shall be able to resist it.

3. If some should object that if these things are so the most pious are the most knowing which seems contrary to experience. So they are as to things necessary to salvation; as the meanest soldier that has fought knows more of war than he who has read or written volumes on it but has never seen a battle. Practical sciences are only learnt in the way of action. It is not the opinion, but the "path of the just," that shines more and more. The obedient are the "children of light," that shall outgrow all their doubts and ignorances until persuasion pass into knowledge, and knowledge into assurance, and all at length into the beatific vision.

(R. South, D. D.)

Astronomy is a science. It teaches us the measurement and distances, and the nature and movements of the heavenly bodies. Navigation is astronomy applied to practice, and by the help of what astronomy tells the sailor, he is able to steer his vessel from one port to another, and ascertain exactly from his chart the position of his vessel. Is it not clear that every time out at sea the sailor unfolds his map and is enabled to mark on the chart the very spot where his ship is in the world's great space — every time he does that he has a fresh proof that astronomy is true. Every time he is able to bring his ship safely into port he has a fresh proof that science is true.

(Bishop Magee.)

"Commentary for Schools."
The stress is upon "willeth," which in our version reads as if it were only the auxiliary verb. It is not deed which is the outcome of faith; but will, which precedes it, that is here spoken of. This human will to do the Divine will is the condition of knowing it. The words are unlimited and far-reaching in their meaning. Those who heard them would naturally understand them, as it was intended they should, of the Divine will expressed in the law and the prophets (ver. 19); but they include the will of God revealed, more or less clearly, to all men and in all times. Our thoughts dwell naturally on representative lives such as those of Saul the Pharisee, Cornelius the centurion, Justin the philosopher; but the truth holds good for every honest heart in every walk of life.

("Commentary for Schools.")

Dr. Taylor, of Norwich, once said to me, "Sir, I have collated every word in the Hebrew Scriptures seventeen times: and it is very strange if the doctrine of the atonement you hold should not have been found by me." I am not surprised at this. I once went to light my candle with the extinguisher on it. Now, prejudice from education, learning, etc., often proves an extinguisher. It is not enough that you bring the candle: you must remove the extinguisher.

If any man will know the will of Christ, let him do that will. When a young man is put to learn a trade, he does so by working at it; and we learn the truth which our Lord teaches by obeying His commands. To reach the shores of heavenly wisdom every man must work his passage. Holiness is the royal road to Scriptural knowledge. We know as much as we do.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

There is a kind of Divine oracle within the self-resigning soul, which speaks clearly and plainly, not darkly and ambiguously, as that oracle in Greece. There is a spiritual priesthood, which hath the Urim and Thummim, not upon the breast, as Aaron bad (Exodus 27:30), but within the breast: light and integrity go together. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant" (Psalm 25:14); or, as it is better in the margin, "and His covenant to make them know it:" that is, it is part of God's gracious covenant not to conceal from them, but to make them know His will. That which concerns them to know and practice, God will not hide from the sincerely obedient. God makes such "to know wisdom in the hidden part" (Psalm 51:6); or, "in the hidden man of the heart" (1 Peter 3:4).


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