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ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. BY THE REV. J. W. BROOKS, Vicar of St. Saviour's, Retford.
[Continued from No. XIV.]
FROM what was adduced in the former section, it is, I trust, evident, that to know God is no common thing; yet it will tend more clearly to illustrate this point, if we consider what is implied in the Scriptures by God's knowing his people. In the prophet Amos the children of Israel are thus addressed: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." Now, in one sense, we may truly say, "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." When therefore the Lord declares that he had only known Israel, it is evident that he adverts rather to the fact, that he had walked among them in power and in glory, revealing his ways to them, and giving to them especial tokens of his regard. Among men we distinguish between knowing a person by sight, or by name only, and the knowing him as one who is our friend, and who makes an unreserved communication of his thoughts and sentiments to us. Thus our Lord says to his disciples, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." It is in this sense, therefore, as I apprehend, that God is said to have known Israel: and besides that he walked among the nation in general in a manner in which he did not vouchsafe to reveal himself to any other nation, there was even among these "a remnant" whom he
VOL. I.-NO. XVI.
knew still more intimately, revealing himself to their hearts and understandings in power, and causing them to know, and to reverently fear, and to delight in him; "for the secret of the Lord was with them that feared him." When God, therefore, is said to know any, it means that by his Spirit he has brought them to an intimate knowledge of himself: wherefore St. Paul, having asked the Galatians, "How is it after ye have known God," corrects himself, and says, "or rather after ye are known of God;" for it is God who must shine into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Thus also Jesus says, "I know my people, and am known of mine;" for the two things always go together.
In order, however, that this subject may be rendered practical to the reader, I will now proceed to point out a few passages of Scripture which shew what effects will accompany a genuine experimental knowledge of God. First may be noticed, that a knowledge of the holiness, majesty, and power of God will beget a spirit of reverent godly fear in the heart. For it is written, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." So intimately, indeed, is this child-like fear connected with it, that Isaiah, in foretelling the character of the Messiah, says, "The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord shall rest upon him;" as if the two things were inseparable.
Love is another fruit that will necessarily proceed from this knowledge; for how can we become properly acquainted with the goodness, mercy, and long-suffering of God, without having excited in us feelings of admiration and delight? Wherefore it is written
again, (in reference to that knowledge which God has of us, and which I have shewn to be inseparable from our knowing him,) "If any man love God, the same is known of him." This love will likewise make itself manifest toward our neighbour; for it is frequently declared by St. John, that we do not love God unless we love our brethren. But more explicitly he says, in one place, "He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love." This last passage also implies, that where there is a true knowledge of God, it will lead those who have it to seek to become like God, viz. "He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love;" for it is as much as to say, You forget that you will necessarily try to imitate God if you know him, and that you will seek to be changed into the same image: God then is love; therefore you must bring forth the fruit of love. Again, it is written, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." And again, "Be ye merciful, even as your Father which is in heaven is merciful." And there are many other exhortations of a like kind grounded on the assumption, that as we know God, we shall aim at being conformed to him.
With the last-mentioned text is so intimately connected the necessity of keeping God's commandments, and of seeking to cleanse ourselves from every thing, in thought, word, and deed, that is contrary to his nature and expressed will, that it scarcely need be touched upon separately. And yet the apostle John is so earnest on this point, as a proof of our knowing him or not, that I cannot keep back his words. "Hereby," he says, "we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." Again he says, "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him." St. Peter also speaks of our escaping the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And in regard to the commandments of God, it is farther important to notice, that he who knows him will submit his own judgment to all that he finds written in the word of God. He will not cull out such precepts as please himself only, or are approved by his own judgment, and leave alone those which appear contradictory to it. This is the part of one who knoweth not, or in whom at least the darkness greatly prevails; for the Spirit of the Lord hath said, "All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them: they are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge."
Many other evidences of the possession of
this knowledge might be brought forward, for the Scriptures abound with them; but I must limit myself to one other. Those who have a saving knowledge of God and of his Christ will experience a confidence and reliance on the Divine protection, both as regards temporal and spiritual things. In the time of trouble such will wait patiently upon God, knowing that he can and will overrule all for good to them that love or know him; and when spiritual temptations assail, there will be similar assurance with regard to the power of that grace which Christ hath promised to work in us. Thus it is written,
They that know thy name will put their trust in thee;" and St. Paul exclaims, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."
Such are the effects that will proceed from a proper knowledge of God; and if these things be in us and abound, they make us (saith the apostle) that we shall not be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind-still in darkness and ignorance of the only way of peace.
It would be easy to pursue this subject farther, and to shew that all the unhappiness which is in the world,-all our errors and prejudices in regard to religion, and all the delusive hopes which men indulge in respect to their salvation, may be traced to a lack or defectiveness of the knowledge of God: it is either owing to the separating the attributes of God, and dwelling too much upon one, and not sufficiently upon another; or it is owing to the not viewing God in Christ Jesus, in whom alone he is to be seen and known properly. Many are professing to trust in his mercy, for example, who, when his holiness and justice are set forth, say in their hearts, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." Some, again, look only at his justice and holiness, and forget his covenant of mercy in Christ Jesus, or want that proper knowledge and understanding of it, which will produce peace. Some profess to know him, yet in works deny him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate; and some, when they have known him, did not like to retain God in their knowledge, but have, in like manner, turned aside to the ways of darkness. And it is not too much to say, that when professors of religion, being in the main believers even, are led, under any circumstances, to allow themselves in a sin, it arises from some darkening or befooling of their understandings,-from the want of more entirely and completely knowing Him who is the light, and in whom is no darkness at all.
It is the same with those who place their affections on things below, and are anxious for the enjoyments of time and sense, or are fearful to trust God concerning them. All may be traced to the want of a better knowledge of God, and of a more decided spiritual illumination of the heart. They still fancy a beauty in sin to a certain extent, or a beauty in the world, miserably as the result always deceives them; and this veil, which is still partially on the heart, obscures in the same proportion the beauty and excellence of Christ, or makes them fear entire conformity to him; whereas that more complete conformity is just the very thing they need. So that, if he who is altogether unconverted has need to be exhorted 66 to cry after knowledge, and to lift up his voice for understanding-to seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures," so have the righteous need to seek to know him more and more, and to pray for "the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, that they may comprehend with all saints the height, and depth, and length, and breadth, and know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge."
And sure I am, that those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, and have been led to know him and trust in him, will "count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord." And equally persuaded am I, that the names of such are written in the book of life, and that they cannot be moved from the hope to which they are begotten: "For the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal-The Lord KNOWETH them that are his." In due time they shall be complete in him, and shall be presented to him spotless, having no dark part in them at all; they shall see him face to face, and know even as they themselves are known.
CHURCH PASTORAL-AID SOCIETY.*
no parsonage-house. I mention these circumstances in order to shew the committee the inadequacy of my income to do any thing towards obtaining some clerical assistance, which is so imperatively called for, if we are to attempt any thing like the spiritual culture of this densely populated village. The pressure of parochial duty is so heavy, and so increasing, that I find it utterly impossible to attend to the numerous and incessant applications that are made to me. Were the whole of my time devoted throughout the day simply and exclusively to the visiting of the sick, it would be impossible even then to accomplish it. I daily in this duty, and yet many poor suffering and scarcely ever spend less than from six to eight hours dying creatures are comparatively left to perish for lack of knowledge. I have been twelve years the incumbent, and have been compelled twice during that time to have an assistant curate, from the very serious state of my health. For the last four years I have devoted the whole of my time and attention alone to the spiritual duties of my high and holy calling, and have not, during that period, had scarcely a single Sabbathday's rest, except a few when I have been confined to bed from sickness. I am at the present time far from well, and feel that I require a little rest from the extreme pressure of duty, and also some assistance to enable me to meet, in any adequate degree, the necessities of the people entrusted to my care. I have two full services on the Sunday; a meeting of Sundayschool teachers and others on a Sunday evening; a lecture on the Wednesday; and, as often as I am able, I deliver lectures in the cottages of the poor at the remote parts of the township. I have a Sundayschool containing 300 children, and could have double the number, if we had accommodation for them. I have a Bible and Prayer-book Society; a Religious Tract Society on the loan system, from which we circulate about 1,000 tracts weekly. We have subin charity for poor women, and other minor institutions, scriptions for the Church Missionary Society, a lyingestablished for the temporal and spiritual benefit of my poor neighbours. The management and regulation of the whole devolve entirely on myself. The popuentirely a manufacturing district. What I particularly lation is chiefly composed of the working classes, being wish from the society at present, is assistance to enable me to engage an assistant curate: then to have three
services in the Church on the Sabbath: to extend and multiply our pastoral visits, cottage lectures, &c. &c. I should wish also, as soon as possible, to erect one or two additional school-rooms, and to have them licensed by the archbishop for divine worship. If I could get one school erected in a remote part of the village, where there is a population of 2,000 or 3,000 people, it would give me an opportunity of endeavouring to desperately wicked and profligate people, who, I am bring under spiritual instruction a vast number of sorry to say, regularly congregate together on the Lord's-day to read infidel publications, and who make occasions, that they disbelieve the existence of God, no secret in publicly and privately declaring, on all and of course deny a future state. It I assure the committee, that the principles of infidelity are spread
THE subjoined affecting appeal is from a clergyman in Yorkshire:-"It has been with unfeigned satisfaction and pleasure that I have heard of the formation of the Pastoral-Aid Society, and of their kind and Christian offer to render assistance to those clergymen who are desirous of bringing the entire population of their respective parishes under religious culture. has long been my most anxious desire to accomplishing in the manufacturing districts to a most alarming this great and important object; but hitherto all my endeavours and exertions have been utterly inadequate. The village of which I am the incumbent contains a population of about 13,000 to 15,000 souls, and is most rapidly increasing. The only place of worship belonging to the Establishment, is capable of seating about 800 persons, and is tolerably well attended, and I have no doubt would be crowded, and very soon incapable of containing the congregation, were it not for this circumstance, there are no free sittings for the poor. The net income from every source is now from 90 to 1007. per annum. There is
• From the Society's occasional Paper, No. I.
and awful extent; and I am fully persuaded, that unless the ministers of the Establishment can work out the excellent system of our beloved Church, we can look forward among the rising generation to nothing but one mass of impiety and infidelity. I do therefore most humbly and most earnestly request the Pastoral-Aid Society kindly to take into their consideration this appeal. I entreat an interest in your prayers, and most fervently do I offer my own to the throne of grace, that your Society may be directed and guided by heavenly wisdom, that your exertions may be crowned with great success, and that both ministers and people may rejoice together, that the Lord Jesus
has raised up this Society for the support and extension of the Established Church, at the very time that she is assailed and persecuted by her enemies and oppressors."
It is needless to say how anxious the committee felt, so to meet this appeal, as to afford to a laborious minister, under such distressing circumstances, immediate and effectual relief. They resolved, therefore, to furnish to him a clerical assistant, and, should further aid appear to be requisite, a lay assistant also.
PLEASURE AND PROFIT OF TRUE PIETY.* IT hath been ever a main obstruction to the practice of piety, that it hath been taken for no friend, or rather for an enemy, to profit; as both unprofitable and prejudicial to its followers; and many semblances there are countenancing that opinion. For religion seemeth to smother or to slacken the industry and alacrity of men in following profit, many ways; by charging them to be content with a little, and careful for nothing; by diverting their affections and cares from worldly affairs to matters of another nature, place, and time, prescribing, in the first place, to seek things spiritual, heavenly, and future; by disparaging all secular wealth, as a thing, in comparison to virtue and spiritual goods, very mean and inconsiderable; by checking greedy desires and aspiring thoughts after it; by debarring the most ready ways of getting it, (violence, exaction, fraud, and flattery), yea, straitening the best ways, eager care and diligence; by commanding strict justice in all cases, and always taking part with conscience when it clasheth with interest; by paring away the largest uses of wealth, in its prohibition of its free enjoyment to pride or pleasure; by enjoining liberal communication thereof in ways of charity and mercy; by engaging men to expose their goods sometimes to imminent hazard, sometimes to certain loss, obliging them to forsake all things, and to embrace poverty for its sake. But, voiding which prejudices, I shall propose some of those innumerable advantages, by considering which the immense profitableness of piety will appear.
Piety doth virtually comprise within it all. other profits, serving all the designs of them all whatever kind of desirable good we can hope to find from any other profit, we may be assured to enjoy from it. He that hath it is ipso facto vastly rich, is entitled to immense treasures of most precious wealth, in comparison whereto all the gold and all the jewels in the world are mere baubles. He hath interest in God, and can call Him his, who is the All, and in regard to whom all things existent are less than nothing. The infinite power and wisdom of God belong to him, to be ever, upon all fit occasions, employed for
* From Dr. Isaac Barrow.
his benefit. All the inestimable treasures of heaven are his, after this moment of life, to have and to hold for ever; so that great reason had the wise man to say, that in the house of the righteous is much treasure. Piety, therefore, is profitable, as immediately instating in wealth; and whereas the desired fruits of profit are chiefly these,-honour, power, pleasure, safety, liberty, ease, oppor tunity of getting knowledge, means of benefiting others; all these, we shall see, do abundantly accrue from piety, and, in truth, only from it.
The pious man is, in truth, most honourable. "Inter homines pro summo est optimus," saith Seneca; whom Solomon translated thus,-" The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour." He is dignified by the most illustrious titles-a son of God, a friend and favourite to the sovereign King of the world, an heir of heaven, a denizen of the Jerusalem above-titles far surpassing all those which worldly state doth assume. is approved by the best and most infallible judgments, wherein true honour resideth. He is respected by God himself, by the holy angels, by the blessed saints, by all good and all wise persons, yea, commonly by all men; for the effects of genuine piety are so venerable and amiable, that scarce any man can do otherwise than in his heart much esteem him that worketh them.
The pious man is also the most potent man. He hath a kind of omnipotency, because he can do whatever he will, that is, what he ought to do; and because the Divine power is ever ready to assist him in his pious enterprises, so that he can do all things by Christ that strengtheneth him. He is able to combat and vanquish him that is the mighty one; to wage war with happy success against principalities and powers. He conquereth and commandeth himself, which is the bravest victory, and noblest empire; he quelleth fleshly lusts, subdueth inordinate passions, and repelleth strong temptations. He, by his faith, overcometh the world, with a conquest far more glorious than ever any Alexander or Cæsar could do. He, in fine, doth perform the most worthy exploits, and deserveth the most honourable triumphs that man can do.
The pious man, also, doth enjoy the only true, pure, and durable pleasures; such pleasures as those of which the divine Psalmist singeth,-" In thy presence is fulness of joy ; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." That all joy in believing, that gaiety of hope, that incessant rejoicing in the Lord and greatly delighting in his law, that continual feast of a good conscience, that serving the Lord with gladness, that exceeding gladness with God's countenance, that comfort of
the Holy Spirit, that joy unspeakable and full of glory; the satisfaction resulting from the contemplation of heavenly truth, from the sense of God's favour and the pardon of his sins, from the influence of God's grace, from the hope and anticipation of everlasting bliss; these are pleasures indeed, in comparison whereto all other pleasures are no more than sordid impurities, superficial touches, transient flashes of delight; such as should be insipid and unsavoury to a rational appetite; such as are tinctured with sourness and bitterness, have painful remorses or qualms consequent.
All the pious man's performances of duty and of devotion are full of pure satisfaction and delight here; they shall be rewarded. with perfect and endless joy hereafter.
As for safety, the pious man hath it most absolute and sure, he being guarded by Alhe being guarded by Almighty power and wisdom; resting under the shadow of God's wings; God upholding him with his hand, ordering his steps that none of them shall slide, holding his soul in life, and suffering not his feet to be moved; he being, by the grace and mercy of God, secured from the assaults and impressions of all enemies, from sin and guilt, from the devil, world, and flesh, from death and hell, which are our most formidable, and, in effect, only dangerous enemies.
As for liberty, the pious man most entirely and truly doth enjoy that; he alone is free from captivity to that cruel tyrant Satan, from the miserable slavery to sin, from the grievous dominion of lust and passion; he can do what he pleaseth, having a mind to do only what is good and fit. The law he observeth is worthily called the perfect law of liberty; the Lord he serveth pretendeth only to command free men and friends," Ye are my friends," said he, "if ye do whatsoever I command you; and if the Son set you free, then are you free indeed."
And for ease, it is he only that knoweth it, having his mind exempted from the distraction of care, from disorder of passion, from anguish of conscience, from the drudgeries and troubles of the world, from the vexations and disquiet which sin produceth. He findeth that made good to him, which our Lord, inviting him, did promise," Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He feeleth the truth of those Divine assertions,-"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee;" and "great peace have they which love thy law," and nothing shall offend them.
As for knowledge, the pious man alone doth attain it considerably, so as to become truly wise, and learned to purpose. "Evil men," saith the wise man himself, who knew
well, "understand not judgment; but they that seek the Lord understand all things." It is the pious man that employeth his mind upon the most proper and worthy objects, that knoweth things which certainly best deserve to be known, that hath his soul enriched with the choicest notions; he skilleth to aim at the best ends, and to compass them by the fittest means; he can assign to each thing its due worth and value; he can prosecute things by the best method, and order his affairs in the best manner, so that he is sure not to be defeated or disappointed in his endeavours, nor to misspend his care and pains without answerable fruit; he hath the best Master to instruct him in his studies, and the best rules to direct him in his proceedings; he cannot be mistaken, seeing, in his judgment and choice of things, he conspireth with infallible wisdom. Therefore the pious man is the exquisite philosopher. "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, is understanding. The fear of the Lord," as is said again and again in Scripture, "is the head or top of wisdom. A good understanding have all they that keep his commandments."
Further; the pious man is enabled and disposed, hath the power and the heart, most to benefit and to oblige others; he doth it by his succour and assistance, by his instruction and advice, which he is ever ready to yield to any man upon fit occasion; he doth it by the direction and encouragement of his good example; he doth it by his constant and earnest prayers for all men; he doth it by drawing down blessings from heaven on the place where he resideth. He is, upon all accounts, the most true, the most common benefactor to mankind; all his neighbours, his country, the world, are in some way or other obliged to him; at least, he doeth all the good he can, and in wish doth benefit all men.
Thus, all the fruits and consequences of profit, the which engage men so eagerly to pursue it, do, in the best kind and highest degree, result from piety, and, indeed, only from it.
THE LIFE OF THE RIGHT REV. THOMAS WILSON, D.D., LORD BISHOP OF SODOR AND MAN.
"THE memory of the just is blessed." The records of men, in whom "pure and undefiled religion" has taken deep root downward, and brought much fruit upward, reflect honour on the past history of the Church, and encourage the servants of God in all after-times. Such, we believe, will be the effect of an acquaintance with the character of the subject of this memoir.
Thomas Wilson was of a respectable family, living at Burton, in Cheshire. He speaks of his parents as having been pious persons; and such we may reasonably suppose they were, so far as the existence of