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KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. 119

any such thing as that the peace, the nearness, the
luminousness of his soul, supposes an immediate knowl
edge of God now discovered to Him. He may even
disown such a conception, as implying a kind* of irrev
erence. Nevertheless that is the exact verdict of his
experience, and nothing else can at all give the mean
ing of it. Indeed, if we can believe it, he was made
originally to be even, conscious of God and live eter
nally in that kind of immediate knowledge ; which
design is now beginning, for the first time, to be ful
filled.

Thus you have every one two kinds of knowledge
relating to yourself. One is what you know mediately
about yourself, through language, and one that which
you have immediately as being conscious of yourself.
Under the first you learn who your parents were, what
others think of you, what effects the world has on
you, what power you have over it, and what is
thought to be the science it may be of your nature, as
an intelligent being. Under the second you have a
knowledge of yourself so immediate, that there is no
language in it, no thought, no act of judgment or
opinion, you simply have a self-fueling that is intuitive
and direct. Xow you were made to have just such
an immediate knowledge of God as of yourself; to be
conscious of God; only this consciousness of God has
been closed up by your sin and is now set open by
your faith ; and this exactly is what distinguishes every
soul enlightened by the Spirit, and born of God.
Whether he says it or not, this is the real account of



120 THE IMMEDIATE

his experience, that God is now revealed in him, and
that he begins to he conscious of God ; for it is a fact,
as every soul thus enlightened will testily, that he is
now conscious, not of himself only, hut of a certain
otherness moving in him ; some mysterious power of good
that is to him what he is not to himself, a spring of
new-horn impulse, a living of new life. It is not that
he sees God without by the eye, any more than that
he sees himself without by the eye, when he is con
scious of himself; it is not that he has any mind-view
of God awakened in him any more than that he has
in consciousness a mind-view of himself. It is only
that he has the sense of a sublime other not himself;
a power, a life, a transcendently great felt Other
who is really and truly God. Hence the rest, and
strength, and peace, and luminous glory into which he
is born it is nothing but the revelation of God and
the immediate knowledge of God. Probably enough
he will not say this, not having been trained or accus
tomed to this mode of conceiving the change, but he
will say that God is near, wonderfully, gloriously near,
and will press into the word all nearness possible, even
such as to include in fact the felt consciousness of
God, and the immediate knowledge of his pres
ence.

Observe now in what manner the Scriptures speak
on this subject. And the time would fail me to
merely recount the ways in which it is given as the
distinction of faith or holy experience, that it carries,
in some way, the knowledge of God, and differs the



KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. 121

subject in that manner from all that are under the
blindness of mere nature.

Discoursing thus, for example, of the state of love,
it distinguishes that state as being one, in which God
and God s love are actually revealed in the soul " For
love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of
God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knowetli
not God, for God is love." And accordingly there
was never a soul on earth that being born into the
great principle and impulse of self-sacrificing love, did
not have the sense of God in it, and consciously live,
in some mysterious participation of him.

The Holy Spirit, in like manner, is spoken of in a
great mai^ ways, as the intercoursing life and imme
diate inward manifestation of God. Thus he is said
to " witness with our spirit," which means that there
is to be a consciousness raised of his presence in the
soul, and a sense of reciprocity established by what is
called his witnessing with us ; as if he carried him
self into our feeling in a way of internal dialogue.
So there is a discerning of the Spirit spoken of, which
does not mean a reasoning out, but an immediate
knowing of the mind of the Spirit. Christ also de
clares when promising the Spirit, that the world
seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know
him, for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you."
And in immediate connection r" the world seetlf me
no more, but ye see me [know me, that is, in him.]
At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father,
and ye in me and I in you." And then again " He
11



122 THE IMMEDIATE

that lovetli me shall be loved of my father, and I will
love him, and will manifest myself unto him."
And what is manifestation but immediate knowl
edge ?

This new consciousness of God is plainly declared
by the apostle when he says " That Christ may
dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and
grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all
saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and
height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth
knowledge ; that ye might be filled with all the full
ness of God." What language but this, " to know the
love that passeth knowledge," to have revealed in
conscious participation what can not be known or
measured by the notions of the cognitive understand
ing what but this can fitly express the sacred visita
tion of a Christian soul, when through Christ and the
Spirit it is wakened again to the eternal conscious
ness of God.

O this wonder of discovery, the knowledge of God
who can find words for it, or the change it must needs
make ! It even makes the soul another creature to
itself. !Now it is no more blank to God, tortures
itself no more in guesses dim, sighs no more "O
that I knew where I might find him." It has recov
ered, as it were, the major part of existence that be
fore was lost ; it knows not only itself, but it has the
knowledge of God ; and in that fact it is raised out of
its mere finite speck of magnitude, into the conscious
participation of being infinite. Every thing is now be-



KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. 123

come luminous. Old things are passed away, behold
all things are become new great as new, and holy as
great, and blessed as holy.

But there is an objection to this mode of conceiv
ing holy experience, as implying an immediate dis
covery of God, which I am properly required to no
tice. What is the use, in this view, some will ask, of
a Bible, or external revelation ? what use of the incar
nation itself? Are not these advances on our outward
knowledge superseded and made useless, when we
conceive that God is offered to immediate knowledge
or experience ? In one view they are, and in another
they are not. Does it follow that because we have an
immediate knowledge of heat, we have therefore no
use at all for the scientific doctrine of heat, or the
laws by which it is expounded ? Suppose it is a part
of our interest in this article of heat, that we be able
to generate more of it, or use it differently and with
better economy. So far we have a use in knowing
about heat, as well as knowing heat. In the same way
it is of immense consequence to know every thing pos
sible about God, that we may find how the more per
fectly to know God. AVe want, in this manner, the
whole Scripture, and not least the incarnation and the
cross, and the story of the pentecost. These things
are matters given to us about God, for the very pur
pose of showing us how to find God. The inherent
use of all medial knowledges, all truths, cognitions,
books, appearings, and teachings, is that they bring
us in, to know God by an immediate knowledge. So



THE IMMEDIATE

far I would give most ready assent to the Quaker doc
trine. We are never to put the book between us and
God, to give us second-hand knowledges of him, and
there accept our limit. The book is given us to carry
us beyond the book, and put us in the way of finding
God as others have found him ; then and there to be in
the Spirit as they were, and know Him by such pri
vate interpretation as he will give us. The mine is
given, not that we may have the gold already dug,
but that we may go a mining for ourselves. And as
these great saints of holy scripture were men of like
passions with us, it is to be our glorious privilege that
they pilot us on, by telling us how to know and grow
as they did.

There is also another objection to be noticed here,
which moves in the exactly opposite direction, wdiere
those who know not God complain that revelation, as
they look upon it, does not reveal him, and that God
is dark to them still, as they could not expect him to
be. If there be a God, they ask, why does he not
stand forth and be known as a Father to his children ?
"Why allow us to grope, and stumble after him, or
finally miss him altogether? They are not satisfied
with the Bible, and if we call it a revelation of God,
they do not see it. Why should he be so difficult of
discovery, hid in recesses so deep, and only doubtfully
and dimly know r n ? If there be a God, is he not of
such consequence, that being hid is even a wrong? Is
it not also the right most plainly of every human
creature, to have an easy and free knowledge of him ?



KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. 125

I certainly think it is ; only we must not make him
responsible for the blear and self-blinding of our sin.
And if it were not for this, I think we should all see
him plainly enough, and always, and every where.
For it is the whole endeavor of his management to be
known. He not only meets our understanding pro
cesses in the facts of his Bible, but he oifers himself to
be known without any process at all, just as the light
is ; nay, if we will have it so, to be a kind of second
consciousness in us, and be known to us even as we
know ourselves. He is even pressing himself into
knowledge when our eyes are shut in our self-will,
our hate, our denial, our desolation. O that for one
hour you could have the ingenuous mind that is
needed to really give him welcome ! Ko more, after
that, would you complain of him that he withdraws
from your knowledge.

Xow this exposition of God s truth, here brought to
a close, converges practically, as I conceive, on a
single point of broadest consequence ; correcting a
mistake almost universally prevalent in some greater
or less degree ; the mistake I mean of being over
much occupied in religion with matters of the head.
The true evidence of discipleship is knowing God.
Other men know something about him. The Chris
tian knows him, has him as a friend. And there is no
substitute for this. Observances, beliefs, opinions,
self-testing severities all these are idle and prove
nothing. If a man knows God, it is a fact so grand,
11*



126 THE IMMEDIATE

so full of meaning, that lie wants no evidence beside.
All curious explorations and deep searches in this mat
ter are very much as if a man were trying himself
carefully, to find whether he sees the day. If a man
knows God in the revelation of his Son, he is ipso
facto full, and wants no more. Therefore he should
not even begin to be elaborate, in his self-testings, or
his questions about himself; the sign is a bad one.
When the true day hath dawned, and the day-star
hath risen in the heart, the man himself ought to
know it without much trouble. Let thine eye be
single, serve God, seek God, know God only, and thy
whole body shall be full of light.

]STow as these keep off the light of their day, by the
ever-busy meddling of their understanding, there is
another class who have never found the day by reason
of their over-busy, over-curious endeavors to make
ready for it. They are waiting, and reading, and rea
soning, as they think, to get light for conversion.
They are going to be converted rationally, nursing all
the while a subtle pride of this, which only makes
them darker, and puts them farther off. They quite
misconceive the relation of our previous opinions,
knowledges, and wisdoms, to the state of faith or con
version-; and putting themselves down upon these,
ihey are all the while at work, as they think, grading a
road into the kingdom of God, so that when the road
is done, they expect to be steered straight in, guided by,
and rested on, the rails they have now finally laid
down. But there is, alas ! a great gulf of transition



KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. 127

here to be passed, that forbids eternally any such con
ceit as that. There is no such relation between the
knowing about God and knowing God, as they think
there is. All the speculative preparations made, and
roads of knowledge graded, stop inevitably short of
the kingdom, and whoever- imagines that he is going
to be trundled logically along the plane of his notional
wisdoms and arguments, into God s bosom, will as
suredly find that he is not there, but has fallen in
finitely short of it. "What then, must you drop out
your very intelligence in order to become a Christian ?
Far from that as possible ; you are only required to
use your intelligence intelligently. That is, perceiv
ing that all you know, debate and think about God is,
at best, only introductory to the knowledge of God
himself, and some way off, take care rather to let
go your speculations and open your heart in faith
to the true manifestation of God. After all you
have reasoned, faith is still to come. The roads
of the natural understanding are in a lower plane,
you must rise, you must go up into trust and know
God God himself by the inward discovery of his in
finite spirit and person.

What is wanted, therefore, for us all, is summed
up in this Christian word faith faith in Christ, or
faith in God ; for it makes no difference. Thinking
and questioning stir the mind about God, faith
discerns him, and by it, as the soul s open window,
he enters to be discerned. Would that all of you
could know how much this means. Cease then



128 THE IMMEDIATE KNOWLEDGE, ETC.

from jour questions, all ye that are afar off, not
knowing God, and asking sometimes, with a sigh,
where shall we find him ? Know that he is here
in thy month and in thy heart ; only believe in
him, and you shall know the greatest bliss a soul
can know, the Father of all glory, manifest within.



VII.

RELIGIOUS NATURE, AND RELIGIOUS
CHARACTER.



"That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him,
and tiud him, though he be not far from every one of us." Acts 17 : 27.

SOMETIMES a truth or distinction of the greatest con
sequence will come into expression in a writer s lan
guage, when he does not notice it, or is not particularly
aware of it himself. Thus Paul, in his notable speech
here to the men of Athens, drops out, unawares to
himself, in the form of his language, a most accurately
drawn distinction that is of the highest possible conse
quence. In passing through their city, and beholding
their devotions, he had been strangely affected by find
ing, among others, an altar to the Unknown God. That
was the type, in a sense, of all their idolatries. In
them all, impelled by a natural instinct for religion,
they were ignorantly worshiping; wanting a God,
and feeling after him, but not able to find him. And
yet he is not hidden, wants to be found, orders every
thing to bring them to himself.

This expression, " feel after," has a mental reference

plainly enough to what they, as God s blind offspring,

were doing ; and the expression, " find him," to what

God, never afar off, wants to have them do. In one,

(129)



130 RELIGIOUS NATURE,

the deep longings of a nature made for God and relig
ion is recognized ; in the other, a satisfied state of holy
discovery and rest in God.

What I propose, accordingly, at the present time, is
to unfold, if I can, the profoundly real and practically
wide distinction here suggested, between having a relig
ious nature, and being in a religious life ; or, what in fact
is the same, between feeling after God, and finding him.

In proposing this distinction, it may be important to
say, that I do it with deliberate reference to what ap
pears to be a great religious danger of our time. It
used to be the common doctrine of sermons, as many
of you will remember, that mankind, under sin, have
really no affinity for God left. Total depravity was
made total, in such a sense as to leave in the soul no
receptivity for God whatever. Human nature itself, it
was declared, is opposition to God ; able, therefore,
only to be the more exasperated in its opposition, the
nearer God is brought. Instead of having still a relig
ious nature, it seemed to be supposed that we have
rather an anti-religious nature, and that nothing can
be done for us or by us till a new nature is given.

All which now is virtually gone by. We familiarly
recognize now the fact of a religious nature still left,
hungering and heaving in us, and beginning oft to be
in want ; longings after the divine, however sup
pressed by the overmastering tides of evil and vain de
sire. The soul, we believe and acknowledge, has a
sensibility to good and to God, able to be drawn by
Christ lifted up, capable thus of being recovered to



AND RELIGIOUS CHARACTER. 131

holiness without being literally new-created in it.
And the result is what might well enough be expect
ed. Where before, the soul, heaving and hungering
and often much disturbed, was battered and beaten
down by the huge impossibility of religion, dumbed
even to prayer, and kept in stern dead-lock, waiting
for the arrival of God s omnipotence to remove the op
position of nature, and give the new heart of grace
we are passing out rather now into a kind of holiday
freedom, talking piety as a natural taste, enjoying our
line sentiments of reverence to God, and protesting our
great admiration of Christ and his beautiful lessons,
all in the plane of nature itself. Multitudes of us, and
especially of the young, congratulate ourselves that we
are about as good Christians, on the ground of mere
natural sentiment, as need be. Kay, we are somewhat
better Christians than there used to be, because we are
more philanthropic, better reformers, and in that are
so easily up to the level of Christianity, in a fashion of
piety so much more intelligent. Our doctrine of the
gospel grows flashy, to a large extent, in the same
manner. High sentiments, beautiful aspirations, are
taken, sometimes wittingly and sometimes unwittingly,
as amounting to at least so much of religious charac
ter. Where we shall be landed, or stranded rather, in
this shallowing process, is too evident. Christianity
will be coming to be more and more nearly a lost fact.
A vapid and soulless naturalism will be all that is left,
and we shall keep the gospel only as a something in di
vine figure and form, on which to play our natural sen-



132 KELIGIOUS NATURE,

timents. In this view it is that I propose the distinc
tion stated, between having a religious nature, and be
ing in a religious life. That we may unfold and verify
this distinction, consider,

1. "What it is, accurately understood, to have a relig
ious nature.

It is neither more nor less than to be a man, a being
made for God and religion ; so far, and in such. sense,
a religious being. It implies, in other words, that we
are so made as to want God, just as a child s nature
wants a mother and a father. It does not follow, that
the child ever knew, or, practically speaking, ever had
either one or the other. And yet the want is none the
less real on that account ; for when it feels itself an or
phan, out on the broad world alone, it only sighs the
more bitterly, it may be, for the solitary lot it is in : and,
when it notes the tender love and faithful sympathy in
which other children are sheltered in their homes, how
sadly does it grieve and weep many times for that un
known, unremembered parentage it can never look to
or behold ! So it is with our religious nature. It may
not consciously pine after God, as an orphan for his
lost parents ; and yet God is the necessary complement
of all its feelings, hopes, satisfactions, and endeavors.
"Without God, all it is becomes abortion. It wants
God as its completest, almost only want ; feeling in
stinctively after him even in its voluntary neglect of
him, and consciously or unconsciously, willingly or un
willingly, longing and hungering for the bread of his
fatherly relationship. And it hungers none the less



AND RELIGIOUS CHARACTER. 133

truly that it stays aloof from him, refuses to seek him
in prayer, tries to forget him and be hidden from him,
or even fights against all terms of duty towards him ;
even as the starving madman is none the less hungry,
or fevered by hunger, that he refuses to eat.

Now this natural something in the soul, which
makes God its principal and first want, includes very
nearly its natural every thing. It has not a faculty
that is not somehow related to God. It feels the
beauty of God, even his moral beauty. All its bosom
sentiments would play around him, and bask in his
goodness. Considering w r ho God is, it has the feeling
of admiration towards him, rising sometimes even up
to the pitch of sublimity. God s creating strength
and all-dominating sovereignty in good, are just that
in the soul, without which he would not be sufficiently
great. His omnipresence, thought of it may be with
dread, is yet thought of also as the needed qualification
of a complete world-care and government. Reason gets
at no limit of rest and satisfaction till it culminates in
God. The imagination flies through solitary worlds
of vacancy and cold, till it feels the brightness of
God s light on its wings, and meets him shining every
where. Even fear wants to come and hide in his
bosom ; and guilt, withering under his frown, would
only frown upon him if he were not exactly just, or
less just than he is.

There is a kind of incipient feeling after the state of
piety thus, in* what we call the religious nature. It
has great sentiments swelling in its depths, honors
12



RELIGIOUS NATURE,

waiting there for truth, glad emotions waiting to
spring up and meet the face of God s beauty, aspira
tions climbing after his recognition, dependencies of
feeling running out their tendrils to lay hold of him in
trust.

Nor let any one imagine that these things are at all
the less true, under the perverse and perverting effects
of human depravity. Human nature as created is up
right, as born or propagated, a corrupted and damaged
nature. But however corrupted and damaged, how
ever fallen, it has the original divine impress on it,
everywhere discernible. It has the same feelings, sen
timents, powers of thought and affection, the same
longings and aspirations, only choked in their volume,
and crazed by the stormy battle of internal discord and
passion in which they have their element. The most
sad fact fact and also evidence of human depravity
is, that the religious nature stands a temple still for
God, only scarred and blackened by the brimstone fires
of evil ; more majestic possibly as a ruin, than it would
be if it did not prove its grandeur by the desolations
it withstands.

Denying therefore, as we must, that human nature
is less really religious because it is depraved, or dam
aged by sin, as on mere physiological principles it
must be denying also that it is made incapable of ap
proving or admiring God, or being drawn by his beau
ty, it is not to be denied that there are times or moods,
when it will even be exasperated by his very perfec
tions ; that is, when it is tormented by its own guilti-



AND RELIGIOUS CHARACTER. 185

ness, and resolved "on courses of life which God is
known, with all his might of sovereignty, to oppose.
At such times, there will flame up a horrible fire of
malignity ; and the better he is, the more dislike of him
will be felt. But these are only moods. The same
persons, in a different mood, when they are not think
ing of themselves, and not pressed by the sense of con
flict with him, will think of him admiringly, and al
most lovingly; as it were, feel after him, to know him
more perfectly. The religious nature in them is more
constant than their moods of perversity, and is reaching
after God in a certain way of natural desire all the
while. Holding fast now these conceptions of the re
ligious nature, let us pass on,

2. To inquire what it is to be in the practically relig
ious life ; or, what is the same, to be in religious char
acter. There is nothing practical in having a merely
religious nature. A very bad man has it as truly as a
good : the most confirmed atheist has it. Mere natu



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