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IV.

GOD KNOWN IN CHRIST.

T is quite understood, and fully admitted, that there can be no absolute knowledge of God. So far our Agnostic friends are right. But, though this is true, it is not new. In one of the oldest books in the Bible we have it quite forcibly expressed: "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?" (Job xi. 7, 8).

This is manifestly true as regards God; but is not the same thing true on a small scale in regard to our fellowman? Which of us knows even his most intimate friend right through and through? This is true, even though our friend may be below us in attainments; and it will be even more true of friends who are above us. Our knowledge of one another is in every case limited by two things capability of expression on the one hand, and power of comprehension on the other. There may be much in the soul of my friend that is never expressed; never expressed in look, or tone, or word, or deed. There may be much in him that cannot be expressed; there may be much he would not express if he could, much he could not express if he would. And then, on the other hand, there may be very much of what is expressed that I cannot understand or catch.

To illustrate this still further-for it seems of very great importance in reference to the knowledge of Godlet us consider what means we have of gaining a knowledge of such an one as Michel Angelo. There are fragments of revelation of the spirit of Michel Angelo scattered far and wide throughout the galleries of Europe, first in originals, then in casts, or copies, so that everybody has an opportunity of knowing something about him. Then there are poems of his which give a further revelation of the man to those who have an opportunity of reading them. These are all expressions of the spirit of the man, and it would not be an abuse of language to put them together and call them the Word of Michel Angelo. But it is quite evident that our knowledge of him will depend not only on our opportunity of seeing and studying these works, but also and still further on the degree in which our spirit is kindred with his, the degree in which we can understand that which is expressed in his works.

Suppose now that from such a study of his works we have learned something of the reality that lurks behind the great name of Michel Angelo, and we wish to learn. still more about him, what do we do? We take up his life and read it. How much more knowledge have we now of the great artist? That will depend on what his biographer has been able to catch and set down of that which was expressed in his life, and also on what we are able to take in and understand of what is so set down. So in the same way if we look at his portrait, what we learn from it will depend first on what the painter has been able to set down on canvas; and second, on what we are able to see in that which is set down. Still further, the case would not be altered in principle even if we had lived in his time, and lived with him, and had the oppor

tunity of seeing him every day. We should thus have had a far better opportunity of knowing him; but even then our knowledge of him would be subject to the same twofold limitation. First, it would depend on how much of the spirit within him ever uttered itself in his face or gesture, or word or deed; and, second, on our ability to comprehend and catch that which was thus uttered. And the point of view we have now reached is a favourable one for seeing of what immeasurable importance this second condition is; for is it not manifest that it would be quite possible for the artist's valet de chambre, if he had one, to know less of the true Michel Angelo than some kindred soul who had never seen him, never even read his life, but had paid one visit to the Sistine Chapel ?

From all this it is evident that our knowledge of our fellow-man even under the most favourable circumstances, must be partial and inadequate. Why then should we expect a full and adequate knowledge of God? But then, even the imperfect knowledge we can have of each other. is sufficient for the purposes of life; and why may not our knowledge of God, however imperfect and inadequate in an absolute sense, be not only real knowledge so far as it goes, but amply sufficient for all purposes of life? It all depends on whether God has expressed Himself at all, and whether our spirits are kindred enough with His to catch that which He has expressed. Thus the subject opens out into two great questions: first, Has God revealed Himself? second, Can we enter into the revelation so as to make out what is revealed of Him? The Scriptural answer to the first question is the Word; the Scriptural answer to the second question is the Spirit.

The Word is the whole utterance of God in nature, in providence, and in grace. God uttered Himself in crea

tion; just as the artist utters himself in his works. He has uttered Himself in the whole history of the world. He has spoken to the fathers by the prophets. These are different utterances of the Word, but they are scattered and fragmentary, like the scattered work of a great artist.

And the question still comes, Is there

no possibility of getting nearer to Himself? Is there no personal revelation? Has no one looked upon a face with the very light of God upon it? Has no one listened to a voice that thrilled with the very love of God Himself? Is there no way of pressing in from the outer circle of His works, which are but the hem of His garment, to His very life, and soul, and heart? Yes, there is: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth." "God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son." There is the central point of the revelation of God: "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." The rest are scattered rays of the Divine glory. Here is the central Sun. Here, in the face of Jesus Christ, is "the knowledge of the glory of God."

So much for the Word, the utterance, the expression of God: but that is not enough, as we have seen. There must also be a soul to comprehend it. We have seen that it is quite possible for a man to look at Michel Angelo's works, and even to live in the house with him. from day to day, and know nothing but the mere shell of him; have no such knowledge of him as to be any better for having looked at him. What is wanted in such a case ? The spirit of the artist; not in all its vastness necessarily, but some of it-enough to give sympathy,

appreciation, delight in the artist and his work. And so here it is necessary not only that God should utter Himself before us, but that God should give us of His Spirit, in order that we may understand what He has spoken. True, we may not have the Spirit without measure, as in Christ, but up to the measure of our capacity we may be filled with the Spirit; and that will be enough, even though our capacity be small, to secure sympathy, appreciation, and delight in Christ, and all that is His; and so the promise shall be fulfilled, "He shall take of Mine and show it unto you."

Thus it comes to pass, that the two natural difficulties that stand in the way of our knowledge of God are met in God's revelation of Himself, first in His Son, who in this relation is appropriately spoken of as "The Word; and second, by the Holy Spirit. The one is the needed revelation without us, and the other the needed revelation within us. The two are present in one view in that magnificent utterance of the apostle, "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts [the revelation within us], to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [the revelation without us]. The two together give us every facility for knowing our Father in Heaven which it is possible for us to have. Even at the best and fullest, our knowledge will remain partial and inadequate. It will be very far from absolute knowledge; it will be wholly relative; but it will be trustworthy, trustworthy as the light, which of all material things about us comes nearest to the expression of the Divine nature; and it will be blessed, blessed as love, which of all that is within us is most akin to God Himself. The light of the glory of God in the face of Christ without, and the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost

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