Page images


hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour:" "There is no searching of his understanding:" by Jeremiah, "Who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word?" by Jesus Christ, "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him;" "0 righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me :" by Paul, "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God:" "Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor?" and by John, "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints."

Here are the words of Moses, who wrote the oldest books of inspiration, and of other men, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, down to the last surviving apostle, whose writings closed the canon of Scripture. The doctrine of the Old and New Testaments, of the prophets, of Jesus Christ, and of his apostles on this subject, is precisely the same. The coming of Christ did not remove the mysteriousness of Jehovah's nature and ways, but rather established it. By opening to our vision amazing fields of thought respecting God's love in Christ, it gave us new and everlasting themes of adoring wonder. God manifest in the flesh was, and is, and ever shall be, itself the sublimest of all mysteries. "Nothing but itself is its parallel." And no where is the incomprehensibility of God spoken of in Scripture as cause of sorrow to the pious. On the contrary, inspired men exult in it and give thanks. Nor can the doctrine be either alarming or distressing to one, whose hope is set on high, and whose mind has learned to bow in true humility before the majesty of God. It is also clear from one of the texts quoted from Paul, that our inability to find out the Almighty to perfection is not merely moral, but natural. The same would have been true if man had never sinned at all. The same shall still be true when the heavens shall be no more. The passage quoted from John is part of a song sung in heaven. This proves that even heavenly bliss does not require in order to its perfection the understanding of all God's nature and ways. A part of celestial happiness consists in worshipping Him, whose counsels are of old, faithfulness and truth, and who maketh darkness his secret place.

III. So very wonderful are the perfections of God, compared with the attributes of the most exalted creature, that his nature and ways must always be mysterious just in proportion to our knowledge of their extent. God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. All men and angels are finite, the creatures of

yesterday, liable to change, and of themselves-without God -have neither wisdom nor virtue. Man is the very lowest order of rational beings, and has by sin greatly debased himself. He is blinded by many passions and prejudices. “Every man is brutish in his knowledge." How then should man, as compared with God, have knowledge either extensive or accurate? This is no surprising thing. Our elder and nobler brethren, the elect angels, who have, ever since they were created, stood around the throne of the Eternal, and drunk of the river of truth as it flows forth fresh from its fountain, are yet, as compared with God, foolish and ignorant. "He chargeth his angels with folly." "Though glorious and holy creatures, they are fallible and mutable, except as upheld and confirmed by the Lord. They execute his wise and righteous counsels; but would soon show their want of wisdom, if trusted to manage any part of the government of the world, according to their own mind. Nay, compared with the infinite knowledge and wisdom of God, they are chargeable with ignorance, being utterly unable to comprehend the vast designs of the great Creator and Lord of the universe; except as he pleases to unfold them. How much less then may man be trusted!" God's plans embrace all creatures and all worlds. They comprehend the whole universe. The greatest stretch of the human mind never extended to all the affairs of an empire, a province, a city, a family, or even of a person. God's plans are founded on the most perfect knowledge of all things. Man's information is very imperfect both in scope and in degree. It would be marvellous if a little child should understand all the measures of a wise ruler. Yet that would be but one finite being comprehending the measures of another. But for a creature to know God's plans would be for finite to grasp infinite. Until man can hold the sea in the hollow of his hand, measure the azure vault of heaven with a carpenter's rule, sweep the outskirts of creation with a compass of his own construction, and tell all worlds, and give their number, weight, and measure, let not his arrogance swell to the monstrous bloating of imagining that he can comprehend God. If he does not know all things formed, how can he search out him that formed them?

Man may follow Methuselah through his long career, but at last he dies. Man may compute the number of seconds in a myriad of millions of centuries, but that is not eternity. God's life-time has neither beginning nor end. "The number of his years cannot be searched out." "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God." "Thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the

same, and thy years shall have no end." "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." A late writer says: "While the spirituality of God's nature places Him beyond the reach of our direct cognizance, there are certain other essential properties of his nature, which place Him beyond the reach of our possible comprehension. Let me instance the past eternity of the Godhead. One might figure a futurity that never ceases to flow, and which has no termination, but who can climb his ascending way among the obscurities of that infinite which is behind him? Who can travel in thought along the track of generations gone by till he has overtaken the Eternity, which lies in that direction? Who can look across the millions of ages which have elapsed, and from an ulterior post of observation look again to another and another succession of centuries; and at each further extremity in this series of retrospects, stretch backward his regards on an antiquity as remote and indefinite as ever? Could we by any number of successive strides over these mighty intervals, at length reach the fountain-head of duration, our spirits might be at rest. But to think of duration as having no fountain-head; to think of time with no beginning; to uplift the imagination along the heights of an antiquity, which hath positively no summit; to soar these upward steeps till, dizzied by the altitude, we can keep no longer on the wing; for the mind to make these repeated flights from one pinnacle to another; and, instead of scaling the mysterious elevation, to lie baffled at its feet, or lose itself among the far, the long withdrawing recesses of that primeval distance, which at length merges away into a fathomless unknown, this is an exercise utterly discomfiting to the puny faculties of man. We are called on to stir ourselves up that we may take hold of God, but the clouds and darkness, which are round about him, seem to repel the enterprise as hopeless, and man, as if overborne by a sense of littleness, feels as if nothing can be done but to make prostrate obeisance of all his faculties before him." If man cannot compute the lifetime of God, how can he comprehend his plans? If he cannot take the dimensions of that Eternity, which is Jehovah's habitation, how can he search out Him who dwelleth therein?

An eternity past puzzles all human comprehension." Yet an eternity to come, if duly considered, no less completely eludes our grasp. It is an important truth that "though we cannot comprehend eternity, yet we can comprehend that there is an eternity." At this plain truth we must stop.

Think, too, of God's omnipresence. He is everywhere. He fills immensity. He is a spirit, and so cannot be divided; yet he is always present in every part of the universe with the whole of his being and nature. He is an infinite spirit, and so no limits can bound him. He is not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being." "He is a very present help in time of trouble." "Am I a God at hand,


saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? * Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord ?" "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me." The sun is distant from the earth ninety-five millions of miles; but ninetyfive millions of times ninety-five millions of miles beyond the sun, and in every other direction, God is as truly present as in heaven itself. Light travels at the rate of more than one hundred and ninety-two thousand miles every second; yet there are stars so distant that if a ray of light had left them on the morning that the Israelites went out of Egypt, it would not yet have reached our world. Over the vast blazing universe above us and around us Jehovah presides. There may be points, beyond which there are no inhabited worlds, yet who dare assert even that? But space has no limits. Immensity has no walls, outside of which non-entity has her kingdom. "Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high, who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?" The other natural perfections of God are no less admirable and incomprehensible than those already noticed.

But the moral character of God presents, if possible, still greater wonders. At the close of a long and lucid argument respecting it, even blessed Paul could do no more than say, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out." Jesus Christ, when on earth, was actuated by very similar sentiments. "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Now, if the contemplation of God's moral character produced such exclamations from the man Christ Jesus, and from his servant Paul, it must be a theme of the most exalted nature. It is while speaking of his own moral character, and, especially of his amazing mercy, that God says: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." The same remark is as true of God's holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and faithfulness. Indeed, all God's moral character is presented to our admiration, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, in such a glorious manner, as to have filled heaven and earth with joy ever since the plan of redemption was known. The angels have long desired to look into these things. The regenerate on earth are delighted with them, and the redeemed in glory celebrate them for ever and ever. God's love is as unfathomable as his understanding.

Nothing is more unsearchable than the riches of Christ. None but divinity can comprehend them. There is often a pleasing harmony in music. There is always an admirable harmony in the plans and works of God. But the most delightful and wonderful harmony is that of the divine attributes in man's salvation. Inflexible justice and incomparable mercy, terrible severity and infinite goodness, eternal truth and everlasting kindness, spotless holiness and undying faithfulness, all meet around the cross of Christ, and kiss and embrace each other. No such glorious concord is seen elsewhere but in Jehovah himself.

IV. God has shown himself to be incomprehensible in his works of creation. He doubtless might have made more worlds and more orders of being than he has; yet who knows all the works that God has made? There are known to be more than eight thousand species of the beetle alone. The tribes of creatures in our world, which are invisible to the naked eye, are said to be far more numerous than all those which we can see. If the tribes are more numerous, the individuals are probably as hundreds of millions to one. There are supposed to be perceptible by powerful glasses as many as three or four hundred millions of fixed stars. If each of these is a sun and the centre of a system of worlds like our own, how vast is the universe! It consists of matter organized and unorganized, and of spirit mortal and immortal. The Bible does not deny that brutes have something in their nature which may be called spirit. But then it teaches that the spirit of a beast goeth downward to the earth, and the spirit of man goeth upward. At death it returns to God, who gave it. All these organisms, animate and inanimate, and all these spirits, mortal and immortal, were called out of non-entity by the Almighty. It is impossible to conceive of any exertion of power greater than that, by which something is made out of nothing. Yet out of nothing God made all things, our bodies and our souls, all we are, all we see, all that is within us, above us, beneath us, around us. Nor did any part of the work of creation cost him any labor. "He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." He said, "Let there be light, and there was light." "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing." "He bindeth up the water in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them." "The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof." Nothing is too hard for him. He neither groweth faint nor is weary.

Indeed so inscrutable is God in all his ways that perhaps no heathen ever spoke so wisely concerning the divine nature as Simonides, who being asked by Hiero, "What is God?" demanded one day for deliberation. When again asked the same question, he desired two days. As often as the question was repeated he doubled the time. When asked the reason of his conduct, he replied, "The longer I consider the question, the

« EelmineJätka »