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PART THIRD. ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, AND THE UNION OF GOD AND MAN IN KNOWLEDGE.



CHAPTER II.


HUMAN KNOWLEDGE BASED UPON THE DIVINE.

God the former and sustainer of the instruments of knowledge. — Doctrine of Malebranche. — Explanations upon it. — Necessity of divine guidance in the use of our cognitive powers. — Distinction between knowledge and the truth. — Reference to the Scriptures.— Concluding remarks.

ALL knowledge, as we have seen in the preceding chapter, is originally in God. We proceed now to remark, further, that human knowledge is based upon the divine. In the Infinite Mind is the original fountain; — a sea of knowledge, wide, deep, and forever full. And from it flow out the streams and rivulets of knowledge into all created minds.

The view which thus connects human with divine knowledge, as streams are connected with their original fountains, has already been anticipated in part. It has already been said that God formed, and that he sustains, the instruments of knowledge, the various perceptive or cognitive powers, which exist in the human soul. But the subject remains to be presented in some additional aspects.

2. It is a doctrine of Malebranche, a French philosopher of the seventeenth century, that we may "see all things in God." Undoubtedly expressions of this kind are liable to be perverted. But if they merely mean, the more we know of God, the more we know what is in him, and what comes from him, — they convey a great truth. Certain it is, however, that we cannot see all things in God, while we ourselves are out of God. Our own relations to God must first be properly adjusted as perception depends not only upon the perceptive power, but partly upon the position in which it is placed, we must be placed right before we can see right. Undoubtedly, if we place ourselves in the divine centre, and let our minds run in the channel of the divine radiations, we shall see all things in the divine light. If God "glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees," he must have realized them in idea, before he realized them in creation. And if we see them in the outward manifestation, it is possible also to see them in the divine centre. The universe is nothing more, and can be nothing more, than the outward letter of the infinite thought; the full-blown beauty of the central conception. The stars and the flowers were in the divine bosom before they were planted in the earth and the sky.

And this truth is universal. It applies to everything which is created. It applies to outward nature. It applies to man. It applies to all the powers of man. They are all developments from God.

3. But admitting this to be the case, and admitting, especially, that the instruments of our knowledge are all of divine origin, the question still remains, — in what way shall we rightly and successfully apply them? They come from God. Can they be sustained, and operate rightly, without him?

If it be said that we can properly and successfully guide them by means of our own knowledge, the inquiry still remains, — what are the instruments, and what are the sources of knowledge back of them, by which such guidance is thus secured? Guidance implies a guiding power. A guiding power implies perception. But what, and where, is that higher perceptive power in man, which thus enables him to guide his faculties? Look for it carefully, — scrutinize the secret places of the intellect,— and you cannot find it, except in God himself, present and operating in the intellect.

We can come to no conclusion; we find ourselves reasoning continually in a circle, except on the supposition that God, in the person of the Holy Ghost, and as the spiritual administrator of the soul, continues to be present with, and to guide, the powers which he at first created. When left to themselves, or when guided by any supposed power in man separate from God, they rush continually into error.

4. The truth is, that any action of man's faculties, without the presence and inspiration of the mighty master of the mind who made them, is not guidance, but merely
action. If man is in harmony with his Maker, he is in harmony with all moral truths and relations, and his faculties, under such circumstances, cannot fail to be rightly guided. Being in harmony with their Maker, their Maker becomes their life. If man is out of harmony with God, and just in proportion as this is the case, his faculties are not guided. They may be said to act, and it is action only. Sometimes the action is violent. There is the action of impulse, the action of selfish passion, the action of contradiction and strife; but there is no true guidance. The rightful authority, the authority which would carry them to their true goal, is in abeyance. Like another Phaeton, man has seized the reins of this chariot of fire; but the steeds know that it is not the hand of the true Apollo, and, frenzied in the want of that mastership which they need, they rush wildly on to destruction.

5. In further support of the general doctrine, that all knowledge is in God, and that human knowledge is based upon the divine, we may very justly make a distinction, which is applicable in some cases at least, between knowledge and the truth; — meaning by the term truth,
complete or perfected knowledge. And in this sense, whatever amount of knowledge man has, God alone has the TRUTH. From no other source can the truth come. It is impossible that man should have it, unless he has it from God, Truth, in the fragmentary form of parts, in which form it is communicated to all created beings, can never be known as truth, and authenticated as such, except by some being who knows it as a whole, and knows it as it really is, and is, therefore, in a situation to communicate it in parts. To us it must come in fragments, because our minds are not broad enough and deep enough to receive it in any other way. And this being the case, we can have no assurance that it is the truth, except so far as it comes from God.

6. A man, for instance, performs a certain act. He knows what is done, so far as the present action is concerned. But not knowing the relations and ultimate effects of the action, his knowledge is imperfect. He cannot be said to have the truth in the case, certainly not the
essential or absolute truth, because that action. of which he seems to have a full knowledge, may affect, favorably or unfavorably, the interests and happiness of thousands of beings, and for generations to come. And of this he does not even pretend to know. It is impossible, therefore, that we should take a single step with certainty and safety, however inconsiderable it may seem to be, except so far as we take God as our guide.

7. Such are the views of enlightened reason on this subject. The Scriptures, also, are abundantly explicit. They everywhere assert, either expressly or by implication, that man needs, and that he must have, a divine guidance. Without such guidance men do not understand, they have not a correct appreciation, even of that which is directly before them. Without the divine light placed in the centre, it will always be true, as is said of them in Matthew and in Isaiah, that "by hearing they shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing they shall see, and shall not perceive." [Matt. 13: 14] 'During forty years the miracles of God were performed in the wilderness, miracles of the most wonderful nature; but there was no correct appreciation of them, merely because there was an absence of God's light in the soul, a want of the divine eye in the centre. Hence that remarkable passage in Deuteronomy: "And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles;
yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day."

8. Looking, therefore, at the subject in various points of view, we come to the conclusion, FIRST, that all knowledge exists necessarily in God. SECONDLY that human knowledge, so far as it can be called the truth, or true knowledge, is based upon the divine. The fact is, that we can no more dissociate ourselves from God in the matter of knowledge, (understanding by the term, true knowledge or the truth,) than we can in that of physical existence. God did not create the body, which is the inferior and less difficult work, and leave the mind to create itself. And, on the other hand, man can no more create his mental nature than he can create his physical nature. He can no more create the attributes of his mental nature, its powers or faculties, than he can create those of his physical nature. And if, in the exercise of the moral freedom with which he is endowed, he may make the effort, independently of God, to sustain them in their right exercise, the endeavor, however sincerely it may be made, will be found to be ineffectual. He will necessarily fail in all such efforts, because, in substituting the finite for the infinite, in resting upon himself instead of God, he has chosen means that are wholly inadequate to the result. The Saviour himself says, "I have not spoken of
myself, [that is to say, by any source of knowledge or wisdom in myself,] but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak." Separate from God, therefore, we are separate from the truth.

9. How wise, then, is the man, who, adopting these great principles, renounces his own wisdom as vain, and seeks the true wisdom in God alone! The truth, or perfection, of man is realized, when, by his own voluntary consent, he has God in him as the central principle, not more truly of his physical than of his mental nature. He neither alienates nor violates his moral freedom by accepting God as his teacher. On the contrary, it is then, and then only, that he realizes the consummation of his liberty.

10. 0 Thou, who art the Truth, because thou hast all knowledge in thyself, and understandest all things in the end as well as in the beginning, guide us into the truth, that "the truth may make us free! " We have eyes, but without thee we see not; — we have ears, but without thee we hear not. "Incline our ears to wisdom, and apply our hearts to understanding." [Prov. 2:2.]