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The knowledge of God always the same.— Communicated to men in fragments or parts, and at successive periods of time. — The divine communication always modified by changes of circumstances. — Of the truths appropriate to particular periods of history. — Ushered in by appropriate preparations. — Illustrations. — The coming of Christ.

ALL knowledge is in God, without addition and without change. His knowledge, as we have been enabled to see in the remarks of the preceding chapters, is not knowledge by acquisition, but knowledge by nature. As knowledge exists in God by nature, it exists there without beginning and without end, and is as full and permanent as the divine existence is; — embracing and absorbing in its infinity all other forms and degrees of knowledge. God never knew more, and never knew less, and never knew otherwise, than he now does.

When, therefore, we propose to speak of the gradual development of the divine knowledge, which is the subject of the present chapter, we do not mean the gradual development of God's knowledge to
himself, but to his creatures.

2. It is hardly necessary to say, that the creatures of God, however exalted they may be, are unable, from a want of mental capacity, to receive all the knowledge which God has. They can be the recipients of the divine knowledge only in part; and such is the constitution of created minds, that they receive the knowledge which they have, not simultaneously, but in successive periods of time, and generally in small portions. And thus every moment, always commissioned with its appropriate message, reveals something new; furnishing, as it passes by, a new channel of communication, a new opening between the divine mind and created minds. And in this way God is revealed to us, if we are in a situation to understand and receive him,
moment by moment. He refreshes us with the daily and continual bread of knowledge.

3. Ordinarily this knowledge is particular, and has relation to our own persons, and our own affairs; but it always comes to us with the freshness of a new communication, because it is always modified by the circumstances of the existing moment. The bright or clouded sky of to-day is not the sky of yesterday. The man of to-day is not the same man, nor surrounded by the same influences, nor the subject of the same providences, as the man of yesterday. There are forms or modifications of knowledge, appropriate to the conditions of youth and age, of poverty and riches, of subjection and government, and of other conditions, which are modified by the changes of each passing hour. The knowledge, therefore, which is appropriate and necessary now, could not have been equally appropriate and necessary in any antecedent period. It comes, therefore, with the attribute of novelty; and as it is necessary in order to the fulfillment of duty, it is always acceptable and refreshing to the consecrated and pious soul.

4. But God develops truth, which is appropriate to communities and nations, as well as to individuals. Some of the general truths, which are held in the keeping of divine wisdom, are especially appropriate, in the view of that wisdom, to particular periods in the history of the world. The truth, both that which is particular and that which is general, though eternal by generation, has its announcement, its birth, in time. So that knowledge, as well as everything else, has its providence. The Saviour himself said to his disciples on a certain occasion: "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them NOW." The wisdom of Providence appreciates not only the thing to be done, but the time of doing it; not only the truth to be communicated, but the position of those who are to hear and to receive it. The announcement to the patriarchs, which confirmed the forbearance and goodness of God, inspired hope. "In thy seed," said God to Abraham, "shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." The declarations of the law of Sinai, revealed in the terrible emblems of thunder and fire, disclosed the height from which men had fallen, in showing the purity and greatness of the God against whom they had rebelled. And thus, from time to time, there have been developments of the divine thought and the divine purpose, suited to the existing condition of things, and the gradually fulfilling destinies of humanity.

5. It is not enough to say, that every great moral truth has its appropriate time, as well as its appropriate character. It will be found, also, that every such truth, (and the same may be said of every great political and scientific truth,) will be ushered in by preparations and instrumentalities which are especially suited to it. And this is so much the case, that the truth cannot possibly come, at least it cannot possibly be received and appreciated as truth, independently of such preparations. It was necessary that civilization should advance to a certain degree, before the Athenians were prepared to receive and to carry out the truth involved in the institutions of Solon. But as soon, in the course of Providence, as the preparations were completed, God constituted and sent forth the
thought, if we may so express it, that is to say, the legislative mind, that was appropriate to the time and the mission. whether the Grecian legislator knew and recognized himself as the subject of a divine instrumentality, or, being gifted with the possessions of wisdom, was ignorant of the God who gave and directed them, makes no difference as to the fact. And thus God has his forerunners, and his preparations, and his instruments, not only in legislation, but in science, in morals, in everything.

6. Romulus, the founder of the Roman state, was not an inhabitant of Judea, but was born in a region very remote, and at that time entirely unknown to the Jews. But it was necessary that Romulus, who sustained relations unknown to himself; should make his appearance in the world, that he should have his birth on the banks of the Tiber, and that he should accomplish his work as the author of new and important institutions, before Christ came. The Roman empire, which dates from the grandson of Numitor, was established, and extended its arms over the world, and brought all nations into one, in order to furnish a suitable opportunity for the entrance of truth into the world, in the person of the Prince of peace.

7. In the fulness of time the Son of God came. But he did not and could not come until all the requisite preparations were fulfilled. As Jesus came in his appropriate time, so he came with his appropriate mission. The messages of patriarchs and prophets, and of wise men, in various ages of the world, according to the light which had been given to them, had been communicated to the world. But the imperfect revelation of those who had gone before was made clearer, and established with stronger confirmations at the coming of Christ.

"God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his SON." [Heb. 1:1,2] God had a revelation of truth, which neither the circumstances of the earlier times, nor the imperfections of the earlier teachers, allowed to be made before. When the time came, the truth was made known. But it is to be remarked further, that in a world of error the truth cannot come into full development without a struggle. Those, therefore, who announce and illustrate the truth, are necessarily called to endure trials. Accordingly, Christ was a sufferer, as well as a teacher. Perhaps we ought to say, in view of the circumstances of his life, that he taught
in suffering, and by suffering. Certain it is, that his message, which was spoken in tears, and sometimes in agony, was at last written in blood. In those sublime words uttered upon the cross, IT IS FINISHED, men learned the memorable, the overwhelming truth, of a redemption completed.

8. In the teachings of the Saviour and his followers, uttered on various occasions, we have many important truths, not fully understood at the time when uttered, and perhaps not fully understood now, but which will be comprehended when lighted up by Providence, and when seen in the renewed and adequate preparation of the human mind. One of the great announcements to which we refer, is the truth of universal brotherhood, involving the cessation of war, and the restoration of universal peace. This is a truth which may be said to be written in letters of light on the pages of the Gospel; but the human mind, being thrown out of its true position by sin, has not been able to receive it until very lately. A century or more since, the doctrines of universal peace were proposed and illustrated in Europe, by Castel de St. Pierre, a learned French ecclesiastic; but were received with incredulity, and very much as if he were preaching a dream. They have been propounded again within a few years, and after the experience of an additional century of fighting and destruction. They now everywhere meet with a respectful hearing. It is the same in other instances. There are other practical truths, — truths originating in the divine mind, and flowing from God to man through the mind of Christ, which have received a new development, and which the providence of God is holding up for a new and general reception in the present age; — the religion of Christ in its simplicity, the reign of the Holy Ghost, the relation of temperance to happiness, the universality of civil freedom the rights of moral and religious belief, universal education, and in every heart a living and triumphant holiness, modeled on that of the Saviour.

9. God is moving on the troubled waters. It was thus in the beginning. There was a time when the beauty of nature was an idea, undeveloped and unrealized. Light existed in God, " but darkness was on the face of the deep." No sun was then, no star, no swelling and teeming earth. "The earth was without form and void;" but when the time came for the realization of the truth and beauty of the divine idea in material forms: then "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." The confusion of chaos stood rebuked; the light shone; the waters subsided to their place; the blooming earth appeared.

At this moment, at this eventful hour in the history of eternal wisdom, the Spirit of the same creating God is secretly, but powerfully, moving on the troubled and chaotic ocean of humanity. The chaos, which is presented before us on every side, is wider, and deeper, and darker, than that of primitive nature, because it is the terrible chaos of moral rebellion. But here, too, the Spirit of God will be conqueror. He, who separated the contending elements of nature, and recombined them into forms of wisdom and loveliness, will not be baffled in his great attempt to erect and consolidate "the kingdom of God," out of the confusions of a fallen nature.