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



CHAPTER III.


CHARACTERISTICS OF THE KNOWLEDGE WHICH IS FROM GOD.

The divine authorship of knowledge not determined by the character of its object. — Illustrations. — Knowledge from God susceptible of every variety of form. — Knowledge from God, a gift. — Is always in harmony with existing providences. — It changes its object, but never wanders from its author. — Concluding remarks.

IT will be the object of this chapter to indicate some of the marks, or traits, that characterize the knowledge which is from God.

The first remark, in regard to the knowledge which may properly be ascribed to God as its author, is, that its divine authorship is not necessarily determined by the character of the object, whatever it may be, to which such knowledge relates. God, for instance, may be an object of knowledge; but it does not follow, that to have knowledge of God is the same thing as to have knowledge
from God. The unbelieving philosopher, who explores the laws of nature, sometimes elevates his thoughts from the thing made to the Maker; but it cannot be said of him, certainly not in the proper and full sense of the terms, that he is a man taught of God. On the contrary, it is of this class of persons that the apostle Paul speaks, when he says, they know God without glorifying him as God.

Many persons have an intimate knowledge of the Bible in many respects. They are acquainted with its geography, its history, its poetry, its doctrines; — so much so as to be in advance, in these particulars, of many devout Christians. But when we consider their unbelief, their immoralities, their practical disregard of the knowledge which they possess, we cannot with propriety speak of them as subjects of a divine teaching. The knowledge which they have is
from themselves, and therefore is mixed with many errors, and often leads to the most unhappy results. The Pharisees, who were intimately acquainted with the writings of the Old Testament, and had a personal knowledge of the Saviour, seem to be an illustration of these remarks.

2. A second remark is, that divine knowledge, or that knowledge which is to be ascribed to God as its author, is susceptible of every possible variety of form. This remark seems naturally to follow from what has already been said. As the divine authorship of knowledge does not depend upon its objects, it follows that the knowledge which is from God is not limited to any particular class of objects, but is, or may be, knowledge upon all possible topics; upon things merely prudential: upon things of a moral or religious nature; upon all matters and things, whatever, which can possibly be the subjects of human thought. The thoughts, therefore, which God gives, are not necessarily thoughts of
himself, nor of Christ, nor of the Holy Ghost, nor of heaven, nor of any particular person or theme mentioned in the Bible, however interesting or sacred they may be supposed to be. A man in a right frame of mind may erect a house, or may lay out and cultivate his fields, or may build and send abroad his ship upon the ocean, and he may say with propriety, (and, indeed, ought always to be able to say so,) that, in doing these things, or any other things, he is called to do, he is taught of God. It is God's prerogative and delight to originate and direct a man's thoughts in affairs of every day's concern, in the practice of his particular trade or calling, in the matter of his farm and merchandise, as well as in other things. As there is no object of thought in the whole universe which makes the thought itself either good or evil, so the principle of thought, subject only to a divine guidance, is left free to range everywhere, and to select and to delight itself in everything which can be thought of.

3. With these negative remarks, that the divine authorship of thoughts does not depend upon the objects to which they relate, and, also, that it is not limited to any particular class of objects, we proceed to say affirmatively, that the thoughts which are from God, just so far as they have a divine origin, are characterized by the fact that they are a
gift rather than an acquisition; — something originated from the Divine Mind, although it may and does have an inward and personal development. The man who is taught of God will be inwardly conscious, without ceasing to be conscious of his personal activity and responsibility, or at least will have an inward and firm conviction, that he is the subject of communications which are not from himself. And as the result of these interior intimations, he will feel authorized in saying, as Christians in all ages have done, " God hath given me understanding."

"We have received," says the apostle Paul, "not the spirit which is of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things
that are freely given to us of God; which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." 1 Cor. 2: 12, 13. In a very remarkable passage, which is worthy of the most serious consideration, the blessed Saviour himself says, "And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you."

4. It may be remarked, again that the knowledge which is of divine origin is characterized, in the second place, by always being in harmony with existing providences; that is to say; it will be found appropriate to the incidents of time, place, and circumstances.

God, being perfect, is always in harmony with himself. His acts are not discordant. If God originates thoughts in a man, he will always make them in keeping with the time, the place, and situation. The holy man, having his thoughts from God, although he thinks on a great variety of subjects, thinks just what he ought to think. He thinks of eternity or of time, of God or of the creatures of God, of himself or of his neighbor; and he thinks of each in the appropriate time and degree of thinking. And the thoughts which he bestows on what are sometimes called worldly objects, coming as they do from God, are not less acceptable to him from whom they came, than the apparently but not really more religious thoughts which he has in a place of worship.

5. Another, and third, characteristic of the knowledge which originates from God, is, that the thoughts which God imparts can never be said to wander from himself. It is true that they often change their objects; but the fact of a change of object does not necessarily imply an alienation or change of authorship. Varying with the character of the person who is the subject of them, and with the situations in which he is placed, they diversify themselves very much, and attach themselves to a multitude of objects; but so long as it can be said of them that they come from God. it can also be said that they carry God with them wherever they go. They never wander from God.. True to their centre of origin, they bear upon their wings, in their widest and most eccentric flights, the light and love of the Divinity. Like the bee that lights upon flowers of every form and hue, they find the honey of God's presence everywhere.

This is an important view to persons whose shattered nerves embarrass and weaken their mental action. or whose imaginations, naturally active and vivid, are not perfectly under the control of the will. Whether it be owing to too great strength or too great weakness, God will never condemn them for the direction which their thoughts take, so long as he is allowed to go with them.

6. We conclude this topic with one remark more. God, as the giver of thought, acts as a sovereign. He not only inspires and guides mental action in those who have fully given themselves to him, but he sometimes represses it. A God equally in the light and the darkness, he gives and he withholds as he thinks best. Nor should this cause us any dissatisfaction. A view of a thing which gives us only very imperfect knowledge, if it comes from God, is better than perfected knowledge which comes from any other source. It is sometimes well for us to be ignorant, in order that, having a sense of our ignorance, we may appreciate more fully the source of true wisdom. The ignorance of the intellect, when it is properly understood, can hardly fail to teach a valuable lesson of humility to the dispositions. Faith, also, which is excluded by perfect knowledge, may be taught in the same way. And whenever and wherever it can be said of a man that he is taught of God, it can also be said that he is a humble and believing man.

"If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world," says the apostle, "let him become a fool, that he may be wise." 1 Cor. 3: 18. "The weapons of our warfare," he says, in another passage, "are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."