then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God.
I. CONDITIONS ON MAN'S SIDE. The enumeration is climactic, proceeding from the less strong to the stronger expressions.
1. Receptivity. The open mind and heart, ever ready to "adopt" true sentiments and appropriate them as one's own. The point is not to ask - Who says this? By what channel does it come to me? But - Is it sound? is it true? If so, it is for me, and shall be made my own. Truth is common property.
2. Attention, concentration, assimilation. "Keeping her commands with us." The thorough student finds it necessary to exercise his memory, and to help it by the use of notebooks, where he hides his knowledge. So must we hive and store, arrange and digest, our religious impressions, which otherwise "go in at one ear and out at the other." Short germ sayings may be thus kept in the memory; they will burst into fertility some day.
3. Active application. In figurative language "bending the ear" and "turning the heart" in the desired direction. The mind must not be passive in religion. It is no process of "cramming," but of personal, original, spiritual activity throughout.
4. Passionate craving and prayerfulness. "Calling Sense to one's side, and raising one's voice to Prudence" - to give another rendering to ver. 3. We must invoke the spirit of Wisdom for the needs of daily conduct; thus placing ourselves in living relation with what is our true nature. Fra Angelico prayed before his easel; Cromwell, in his tent on the eve of battle. So must the thinker in his study, the preacher in his pulpit, the merchant at his desk, if he would have the true clearness of vision and the only genuine success. True prayer is always for the universal, not the private, good.
5. Persevering and laborious exertion. illustrated by the miner's toil. The passage (Job 28.), of extraordinary picturesque power and interest, describing the miner's operations, may help us to appreciate the Illustration. The pursuit of what is ideal is still more arduous than that of the material, as silver and gold. It is often said that the perseverance of the unholy worker shames the sloth of the spiritual man. But let us not ignore the other side. The toil in the spiritual region is not obvious to the eye like the other, but is not the less really practised in silence by thousands of faithful souls. We should reflect on the immense travail of soul it has cost to produce the book which stirs us like a new force, though it may appear to flow with consummate ease from the pen. Such are the conditions of "understanding the fear of Jehovah," or, in modern language, of appropriating, making religion our own; "receiving the things of the Spirit of God," in the language of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is the highest human possession, because permanent, inalienable, and preservative amidst life's ills.
II. CONDITIONS ON THE SIDE OF GOD. If religion be the union or identification of the soul with God, he must be related to us in such a way as makes this possible.
1. He is wisdom's Source and Giver. He not only contains in himself that knowledge which, reflected in us, becomes prudence, sense, wisdom, piety; he is an active Will and a self-communicating Spirit. The ancients had a glimpse of this when they said that the gods were not of so grudging or envious a nature as not to reveal their good to men. God is self-revealing; "freely gives of his things" to us, that we may know, and in knowing, possess them.
2. His wisdom is saving. "Sound wisdom" (ver. 7) may be better rendered soundness, or salvation, or health, or saving health. It seems to come from a root signifying the essential or actual. Nothing is essential but health for sensuous enjoyment; nothing but health, in the larger sense, for spiritual enjoyment. Let us think of God as himself absolute Health, and thus the Giver of all health and happiness to his creatures.
3. He is Protector of the faithful. The Hebrew imagination, informed by constant scenes of war, delights to represent him as the Buckler or Shield of his servants (Psalm 18:2; Psalm 33:20; Psalm 89:19). Those who "walk in innocence" seem to bear a charmed life. They "fear no evil," for he is with them. The vast sky is their tent roof. They may be slain, but cannot be hurt. To be snatched from this world is to be caught to his arms.
4. He is eternal Justice. Being this in himself, the "way of his saints," which is synonymous with human rectitude, cannot be indifferent to him. Right is the highest idea we can associate with God. It is exempt from the possible suspicion of weakness or misdirection which may cleave to the mere idea of goodness or kindness. It essentially includes might. Thus the soul finds shelter beneath this vast and majestic conception and faith of its God. These, then, are the conditions, Divine and human, of religion. That we may realize it in ourselves, "understand right, justice, and equity" - in a word, "every good way" of life and thought, uniting piety with morality - the conditions must be faithfully fulfilled. Perfect bodily health may not be attainable; some of its conditions lie without the sphere of freedom, and within that of necessary law. Spiritual health is attainable, for it lies within the sphere of freedom. Then God is realized; it is the ether of the soul, and the region of love and light and blessedness. - J.
Find the knowledge of God.
(Sir Humphrey Davey.)
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