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Sermons to the Natural Man by William G.T. Shedd

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It is with a solemn feeling of responsibility that I send forth this
volume of Sermons. The ordinary emotions of authorship have little place
in the experience, when one remembers that what he says will be either a
means of spiritual life, or an occasion of spiritual death.

I believe that the substance of these Discourses will prove to accord
with God's revealed truth, in the day that will try all truth. The title
indicates their general aim and tendency. The purpose is psychological. I
would, if possible, anatomize the natural heart. It is in vain to offer
the gospel unless the law has been applied with clearness and cogency. At
the present day, certainly, there is far less danger of erring in the
direction of religious severity, than in the direction of religious
indulgence. If I have not preached redemption in these sermons so fully
as I have analyzed sin, it is because it is my deliberate conviction
that just now the first and hardest work to be done by the preacher, for
the natural man, is to produce in him some sensibility upon the subject
of sin. Conscience needs to become consciousness. There is considerable
theoretical unbelief respecting the doctrines of the New Testament; but
this is not the principal difficulty. Theoretical skepticism is in a
small minority of Christendom, and always has been. The chief obstacle to
the spread of the Christian religion is the practical unbelief of
speculative believers. "Thou sayest,"--says John Bunyan,--"thou dost in
deed and in truth believe the Scriptures. I ask, therefore, Wast thou
ever killed stark dead by the law of works contained in the Scriptures?
Killed by the law or letter, and made to see thy sins against it, and
left in an helpless condition by the law? For, the proper work of the law
is to slay the soul, and to leave it dead in an helpless state. For, it
doth neither give the soul any comfort itself, when it comes, nor doth it
show the soul where comfort is to be had; and therefore it is called the
'ministration of condemnation,' the 'ministration of death.' For, though
men may have a notion of the blessed Word of God, yet before they be
converted, it may be truly said of them, Ye err, not knowing the
Scriptures, nor the power of God."

If it be thought that such preaching of the law can be dispensed with, by
employing solely what is called in some quarters the preaching of the
gospel, I do not agree with the opinion. The benefits of Christ's
redemption are pearls which must not be cast before swine. The gospel is
not for the stupid, or for the doubter,--still less for the scoffer.
Christ's atonement is to be offered to conscious guilt, and in order to
conscious guilt there must be the application of the decalogue. John
Baptist must prepare the way for the merciful Redeemer, by legal and
close preaching. And the merciful Redeemer Himself, in the opening of His
ministry, and before He spake much concerning remission of sins, preached
a sermon which in its searching and self-revelatory character is a more
alarming address to the corrupt natural heart, than was the first
edition of it delivered amidst the lightnings of Sinai. The Sermon on the
Mount is called the Sermon of the Beatitudes, and many have the
impression that it is a very lovely song to the sinful soul of man. They
forget that the blessing upon obedience implies a _curse_ upon
disobedience, and that every mortal man has disobeyed the Sermon on the
Mount. "God save me,"--said a thoughtful person who knew what is in the
Sermon on the Mount, and what is in the human heart,--"God save me from
the Sermon on the Mount when I am judged in the last day." When Christ
preached this discourse, He preached the law, principally. "Think
not,"--He says,--"that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am
not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven
and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law
till all be fulfilled." John the Baptist describes his own preaching,
which was confessedly severe and legal, as being far less searching than
that of the Messiah whose near advent he announced. "I indeed baptize you
with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than
I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the
Holy Ghost and with _fire_; whose _fan_ is in his hand, and he will
_thoroughly purge_ his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but
he will _burn up the chaff_ with unquenchable fire."

The general burden and strain of the Discourse with which the Redeemer
opened His ministry is preceptive and mandatory. Its keynote is: "Thou
shalt do this," and, "Thou shalt not do that;" "Thou shalt be thus, in
thine heart," and, "Thou shalt not be thus, in thine heart." So little is
said in it, comparatively, concerning what are called the doctrines of
grace, that it has often been cited to prove that the creed of the Church
has been expanded unduly, and made to contain more than the Founder of
Christianity really intended it should. The absence, for example, of any
direct and specific statement of the doctrine of Atonement, in this
important section of Christ's teaching, has been instanced by the
Socinian opponent as proof that this doctrine is not so vital as the
Church has always claimed it to be. But, Christ was purposely silent
respecting grace and its methods, until he had _spiritualized Law_, and
made it penetrate the human consciousness like a sharp sword. Of what use
would it have been to offer mercy, before the sense of its need had been
elicited? and how was this to be elicited, but by the solemn and
authoritative enunciation of law and justice? There are, indeed, cheering
intimations, in the Sermon on the Mount, respecting the Divine mercy, and
so there are in connection with the giving of the Ten Commandments. But
law, rather than grace, is the main substance and burden of both. The
great intention, in each instance, is to convince of sin, preparatory to
the offer of clemency. The Decalogue is the legal basis of the Old
Dispensation, and the Sermon on the Mount is the legal basis of the New.
When the Redeemer, in the opening of His ministry, had provided the
apparatus of conviction, then He provided the apparatus of expiation. The
Great High-Priest, like the Levitical priest who typified Him, did not
sprinkle atoning blood indiscriminately. It was to bedew only him who
felt and confessed guilt.

This legal and minatory element in the words of Jesus has also been
noticed by the skeptic, and an argument has been founded upon it to prove
that He was soured by ill-success, and, like other merely human reformers
who have found the human heart too hard, for them, fell away from the
gentleness with which He began His ministry, into the anger and
denunciation of mortified ambition with which it closed. This is the
picture of Jesus Christ which Renan presents in his apocryphal Gospel.
But the fact is, that the Redeemer _began_ with law, and was rigorous
with sin from the very first. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered not
far from twelve months from the time of His inauguration, by baptism, to
the office of Messiah. And all along through His ministry of three years
and a half, He constantly employs the law in order to prepare his hearers
for grace. He was as gentle and gracious to the penitent sinner, in the
opening of His ministry, as he was at the close of it; and He was as
unsparing and severe towards the hardened and self-righteous sinner, in
His early Judaean, as He was in His later Galilean ministry.

It is sometimes said that the surest way to produce conviction of sin is
to preach the Cross. There is a sense in which this is true, and there is
a sense in which it is false. If the Cross is set forth as the cursed
tree on which the Lord of Glory hung and suffered, to satisfy the demands
of Eternal Justice, then indeed there is fitness in the preaching to
produce the sense of guilt. But this is to preach the _law_, in its
fullest extent, and the most tremendous energy of its claims. Such
discourse as this must necessarily analyze law, define it, enforce it,
and apply it in the most cogent manner. For, only as the atonement of
Christ is shown to completely meet and satisfy all these _legal_ demands
which have been so thoroughly discussed and exhibited, is the real virtue
and power of the Cross made manifest.

But if the Cross is merely held up as a decorative ornament, like that on
the breast of Belinda, "which Jews might kiss and infidels adore;" if it
be proclaimed as the beautiful symbol of the Divine indifference and
indulgence, and there be a studious _avoiding_ of all judicial aspects
and relations; if the natural man is not searched by law and alarmed by
justice, but is only soothed and narcotized by the idea of an
Epicurean deity destitute of moral anger and inflicting no righteous
retribution,--then, there will be no conviction of sin. Whenever the
preaching of the law is positively _objected_ to, and the preaching of
the gospel is proposed in its place, it will be found that the "gospel"
means that good-nature and that easy virtue which some mortals dare to
attribute to the Holy and Immaculate Godhead! He who really, and in good
faith, preaches the Cross, never opposes the preaching of the law.

Still another reason for the kind of religious discourse which we are
defending is found in the fact that multitudes are expecting a happy
issue of this life, upon ethical as distinguished from evangelical
grounds. They deny that they deserve damnation, or that they need
Christ's atonement. They say that they are living virtuous lives, and are
ready to adopt language similar to that of Mr. Mill spoken in another
connection: "If from this position of integrity and morality we are to be
sent to hell, to hell we will go." This tendency is strengthened by the
current light letters, in distinction from standard literature. A certain
class, through ephemeral essays, poems, and novels, has been plied with
the doctrine of a natural virtue and an innate goodness, until it has
become proud and self-reliant. The "manhood" of paganism is glorified,
and the "childhood" of the gospel is vilified. The graces of humility,
self-abasement before God, and especially of penitence for sin, are
distasteful and loathed. Persons of this order prefer to have their
religious teacher silent upon these themes, and urge them to courage,
honor, magnanimity, and all that class of qualities which imply
self-consciousness and self-reliance. To them apply the solemn words of
the Son of God to the Pharisees: "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin:
but now ye say, We _see_, therefore your sin remaineth."

It is, therefore, specially incumbent upon the Christian ministry, to
employ a searching and psychological style of preaching, and to apply the
tests of ethics and virtue so powerfully to men who are trusting to
ethics and virtue, as to bring them upon their knees. Since these men are
desiring, like the "foolish Galatiana," to be saved by the law, then let
the law be laid down to them, in all its breadth and reach, that they may
understand the real nature and consequences of the position they have
taken. "Tell me," says a preacher of this stamp,--"tell me, ye that
desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law,"--do ye not hear its
thundering,--"_cursed_ is every one that continueth not in ALL things
that are written in the law, to do them!" Virtue must be absolutely
perfect and spotless, if a happy immortality is to be made to depend upon
virtue. If the human heart, in its self-deception and self-reliance,
turns away from the Cross and the righteousness of God, to morals and the
righteousness of works, then let the Christian thinker follow after it
like the avenger of blood. Let him set the heights and depths of ethical
_perfection_ before the deluded mortal; let him point to the inaccessible
cliffs that tower high above, and bid him scale them if he can; let him
point to the fathomless abysses beneath, and tell him to descend and
bring up perfect virtue therefrom; let him employ the very instrument
which this _virtuoso_ has chosen, until it becomes an instrument of
torture and self-despair. In this way, he is breaking down the "manhood"
that confronts and opposes, and is bringing in the "childhood" that is
docile, and recipient of the kingdom.

These Sermons run the hazard of being pronounced monotonous, because of
the pertinacity with which the attempt is made to force self-reflection.
But this criticism can easily be endured, provided the attempt succeeds.
Religious truth becomes almighty the instant it can get _within_ the
soul; and it gets within the soul, the instant real thinking begins. "As
you value your peace of mind, stop all scrutiny into your personal
character," is the advice of what Milton denominates "the sty of
Epicurus." The discouraging religious condition of the present age is
due to the great lack, not merely in the lower but the higher classes, of
calm, clear self-intelligence. Men do not know themselves. The Delphic
oracle was never less obeyed than now, in this vortex of mechanical arts
and luxury. For this reason, it is desirable that the religious teacher
dwell consecutively upon topics that are connected with that which is
_within_ man,--his settled motives of action, and all those spontaneous
on-goings of his soul of which he takes no notice, unless he is persuaded
or impelled to do so. Some of the old painters produced powerful effects
by one solitary color. The subject of moral evil contemplated in the
heart of the individual man,--not described to him from the outside, but
wrought out of his own being into incandescent letters, by the fierce
chemistry of anxious perhaps agonizing reflection,--sin, the one awful
fact in the history of man, if caused to pervade discourse will always
impart to it a hue which, though it be monochromatic, arrests and holds
the eye like the lurid color of an approaching storm-cloud.

With this statement respecting the aim and purport of these Sermons, and
deeply conscious of their imperfections, especially for spiritual
purposes, I send them out into the world, with the prayer that God the
Spirit will deign to employ them as the means of awakening some souls
from the lethargy of sin.

Union Theological Seminary,
New York, _February 17_, 1871.

* * * * *
























1 Cor. xiii. 12.--"Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also
I am known."

The apostle Paul made this remark with reference to the blessedness of
the Christian in eternity. Such assertions are frequent in the
Scriptures. This same apostle, whose soul was so constantly dilated
with the expectation of the beatific vision, assures the Corinthians, in
another passage in this epistle, that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath
prepared for them that love Him." The beloved disciple John, also, though
he seems to have lived in the spiritual world while he was upon the
earth, and though the glories of eternity were made to pass before him in
the visions of Patmos, is compelled to say of the sons of God, "It doth
not yet appear what we shall be." And certainly the common Christian, as
he looks forward with a mixture of hope and anxiety to his final state in
eternity, will confess that he knows but "in part," and that a very small
part, concerning it. He endures as seeing that which is invisible, and
cherishes the hope that through Christ's redemption his eternity will
be a condition of peace and purity, and that he shall know even as also
he is known.

But it is not the Christian alone who is to enter eternity, and to whom
the exchange of worlds will bring a luminous apprehension of many things
that have hitherto been seen only through a glass darkly. Every human
creature may say, when he thinks of the alteration that will come over
his views of religious subjects upon entering another life, "Now
I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. I am now
in the midst of the vapors and smoke of this dim spot which men call
earth, but then shall I stand in the dazzling light of the face of God,
and labor under no doubt or delusion respecting my own character or that
of my Eternal Judge."

A moment's reflection will convince any one, that the article and fact of
death must of itself make a vast accession to the amount of a man's
knowledge, because death introduces him into an entirely new state of
existence. Foreign travel adds much to our stock of ideas, because we go
into regions of the earth of which we had previously known only by the
hearing of the ear. But the great and last journey that man takes carries
him over into a province of which no book, not even the Bible itself,
gives him any distinct cognition, as to the style of its scenery or the
texture of its objects. In respect to any earthly scene or experience,
all men stand upon substantially the same level of information, because
they all have substantially the same data for forming an estimate. Though
I may never have been in Italy, I yet know that the soil of Italy is a
part of the common crust of the globe, that the Apennines are like other
mountains which I have seen, that the Italian sunlight pours through the
pupil like any other sunlight, and that the Italian breezes fan the brow
like those of the sunny south the world over. I understand that the
general forms of human consciousness in Europe and Asia, are like those
in America. The operations of the five senses are the same in the Old
World that they are in the New. But what do I know of the surroundings
and experience of a man who has travelled from time into eternity? Am I
not completely baffled, the moment I attempt to construct the
consciousness of the unearthly state? I have no materials out of which to
build it, because it is not a world of sense and matter, like that which
I now inhabit.

But death carries man over into the new and entirely different mode of
existence, so that he knows by direct observation and immediate
intuition. A flood of new information pours in upon the disembodied
spirit, such as he cannot by any possibility acquire upon earth, and yet
such as he cannot by any possibility escape from in his new residence.
How strange it is, that the young child, the infant of days, in the heart
of Africa, by merely dying, by merely passing from time into eternity,
acquires a kind and grade of knowledge that is absolutely inaccessible
to the wisest and subtlest philosopher while here on earth![1] The dead
Hottentot knows more than the living Plato.

But not only does the exchange of worlds make a vast addition to our
stores of information respecting the nature of the invisible realm, and
the mode of existence there, it also makes a vast addition to the kind
and degree of our knowledge respecting _ourselves_, and our personal
relationships to God. This is by far the most important part of the new
acquisition which we gain by the passage from time to eternity, and it is
to this that the Apostle directs attention in the text. It is not so much
the world that will be around us, when we are beyond the tomb, as it is
the world that will be within us, that is of chief importance. Our
circumstances in this mode of existence, and in any mode of existence,
are arranged by a Power above us, and are, comparatively, matters of
small concern; but the persons that we ourselves verily are, the
characters which we bring into this environment, the little inner world
of thought and feeling which is to be inclosed and overarched in the
great outer world of forms and objects,--all this is matter of infinite
moment and anxiety to a responsible creature.

For the text teaches, that inasmuch as the future life is the _ultimate_
state of being for an immortal spirit, all that imperfection and
deficiency in knowledge which appertains to this present life, this
"ignorant present" time, must disappear. When we are in eternity, we
shall not be in the dark and in doubt respecting certain great questions
and truths that sometimes raise a query in our minds here. Voltaire now
knows whether there is a sin-hating God, and David Hume now knows whether
there is an endless hell. I may, in certain moods of my mind here upon
earth, query whether I am accountable and liable to retribution, but the
instant I shall pass from this realm of shadows, all this skepticism will
be banished forever from my mind. For the future state is the _final_
state, and hence all questions are settled, and all doubts are resolved.
While upon earth, the arrangements are such that we cannot see every
thing, and must walk by faith, because it is a state of probation; but
when once in eternity, all the arrangements are such that we cannot but
see every thing, and must walk by sight, because it is the state of
adjudication. Hence it is, that the preacher is continually urging men to
view things, so far as is possible, in the light of eternity, as the only
light that shines clearly and without refractions. Hence it is, that he
importunes his hearers to estimate their duties, and their relationships,
and their personal character, as they will upon the death-bed, because in
the solemn hour of death the light of the future state begins to dawn
upon the human soul.

It is very plain that if a spiritual man like the apostle Paul, who in a
very remarkable degree lived with reference to the future world, and
contemplated subjects in the light of eternity, was compelled to say that
he knew but "in part," much more must the thoughtless natural man confess
his ignorance of that which will meet him when his spirit returns to God.
The great mass of mankind are totally vacant of any just apprehension of
what will be their state of mind, upon being introduced into God's
presence. They have never seriously considered what must be the effect
upon their views and feelings, of an entire withdrawment from the scenes
and objects of earth, and an entrance into those of the future state.
Most men are wholly engrossed in the present existence, and do not allow
their thoughts to reach over into that invisible region which revelation
discloses, and which the uncontrollable workings of conscience sometimes
_force_ upon their attention for a moment. How many men there are, whose
sinful and thoughtless lives prove that they are not aware that the
future world will, by its very characteristics, fill them with a species
and a grade of information that will be misery unutterable. Is it not the
duty and the wisdom of all such, to attempt to conjecture and anticipate
the coming experience of the human soul in the day of judgment and the
future life, in order that by repentance toward God and faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ they may be able to stand in that day? Let us then endeavor
to know, at least "in part," concerning the eternal state.

The latter clause of the text specifies the general characteristic of
existence in the future world. It is a mode of existence in which the
rational mind "_knows_ even as it is known." It is a world of
knowledge,--of conscious knowledge. In thus unequivocally asserting that
our existence beyond the tomb is one of distinct consciousness,
revelation has taught us what we most desire and need to know. The first
question that would be raised by a creature who was just to be launched
out upon an untried mode of existence would be the question: "Shall I be
_conscious_?" However much he might desire to know the length and breadth
of the ocean upon which his was to set sail, the scenery that was to be
above him and around him in his coming history,--nay, however much he
might wish to know of matters still closer to himself than these; however
much he might crave to ask of his Maker, "With what body shall I come?"
all would be set second to the simple single inquiry: "Shall I think,
shall I feel, shall I know?" In answering this question in the
affirmative, without any hesitation or ambiguity, the apostle Paul has
in reality cleared up most of the darkness that overhangs the future
state. The structure of the spiritual body, and the fabric of the
immaterial world, are matters of secondary importance, and may be left
without explanation, provided only the rational mind of man be distinctly
informed that it shall not sleep in unconsciousness, and that the
immortal spark shall not become such stuff as dreams are made of.

The future, then, is a mode of existence in which the soul "knows even as
it is known." But this involves a perception in which there is no error,
and no intermission. For, the human spirit in eternity "is known" by the
omniscient God. If, then, it knows in the style and manner that God
knows, there can be no misconception or cessation in its cognition. Here,
then, we have a glimpse into the nature of our eternal existence. It is a
state of distinct and unceasing knowledge of moral truth and moral
objects. The human spirit, be it holy or sinful, a friend or an enemy of
God, in eternity will always and forever be aware of it. There is no
forgetting in the future state; there is no dissipation of the mind
there; and there is no aversion of the mind from itself. The cognition is
a fixed quantity. Given the soul, and the knowledge is given. If it be
holy, it is always conscious of the fact. If it be sinful, it cannot for
an instant lose the distressing consciousness of sin. In neither instance
will it be necessary, as it generally is in this life, to make a special
effort and a particular examination, in order to know the personal
character. Knowledge of God and His law, in the future life, is
spontaneous and inevitable; no creature can escape it; and therefore the
bliss is _unceasing_ in heaven, and the misery is _unceasing_ in
hell. There are no states of thoughtlessness and unconcern in the future
life, because there is not an instant of forgetfulness or ignorance of
the personal character and condition. In the world beyond this, every man
will constantly and distinctly know what he is, and what he is not,
because he will "be known" by the omniscient and unerring God, and will
himself know in the same constant and distinct style and manner.

If the most thoughtless person that now walks the globe could only have a
clear perception of that kind of knowledge which is awaiting him upon the
other side of the tomb, he would become the most thoughtful and the most
anxious of men. It would sober him like death itself. And if any
unpardoned man should from this moment onward be haunted with the
thought, "When I die I shall enter into the light of God's countenance,
and obtain a knowledge of my own character and obligations that will be
as accurate and unvarying as that of God himself upon this subject," he
would find no rest until he had obtained an assurance of the Divine
mercy, and such an inward change as would enable him to endure this deep
and full consciousness of the purity of God and of the state of his
heart. It is only because a man is unthinking, or because he imagines
that the future world will be like the present one, only longer in
duration, that he is so indifferent regarding it. Here is the difficulty
of the case, and the fatal mistake which the natural man makes. He
supposes that the views which he shall have upon religious subjects in
the eternal state, will be very much as they are in this,--vague,
indistinct, fluctuating, and therefore causing no very great anxiety. He
can pass days and weeks here in time without thinking of the claims of
God upon him, and he imagines that the same thing is possible in
eternity. While here upon earth, he certainly does not "know even as
also he is known," and he hastily concludes that so it will be beyond the
grave. It is because men imagine that eternity is only a very long space
of _time_, filled up, as time here is, with dim, indistinct
apprehensions, with a constantly shifting experience, with shallow
feelings and ever diversified emotions, in fine, with all the _variety_
of pleasure and pain, of ignorance and knowledge, that pertains to this
imperfect and probationary life,--it is because mankind thus conceive of
the final state, that it exerts no more influence over them. But such is
not its true idea. There is a marked difference between the present and
the future life, in respect to uniformity and clearness of knowledge.
"Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known." The
text and the whole teaching of the New Testament prove that the invisible
world is the unchangeable one; that there are no alterations of
character, and consequently no alternations of experience, in the future
life; that there are no transitions, as there are in this checkered scene
of earth, from happiness to unhappiness and back again. There is but one
uniform type of experience for an individual soul in eternity. That soul
is either uninterruptedly happy, or uninterruptedly miserable, because it
has either an uninterrupted sense of holiness, or an uninterrupted sense
of sin. He that is righteous is righteous still, and knows it
continually; and he that is filthy is filthy still, and knows it
incessantly. If we enter eternity as the redeemed of the Lord, we take
over the holy heart and spiritual affections of regeneration, and there
is no change but that of progression,--a change, consequently, only in
degree, but none of kind or type. The same knowledge and experience that
we have here "in part" we shall have there in completeness and
permanency. And the same will be true, if the heart be evil and the
affections inordinate and earthly. And all this, simply because the
mind's knowledge is clear, accurate, and constant. That which the
transgressor knows here of God and his own heart, but imperfectly, and
fitfully, and briefly, he shall know there perfectly, and constantly, and
everlastingly. The law of constant evolution, and the characteristic of
unvarying uniformity, will determine and fix the type of experience in
the evil as it does in the good.

Such, then, is the general nature of knowledge in the future state. It is
distinct, accurate, unintermittent, and unvarying. We shall know even as
we are known, and we are known by the omniscient and unerring Searcher of
hearts. Let us now apply this general characteristic of cognition in
eternity to some particulars. Let us transfer our minds into the future
and final state, and mark what goes on within them there. We ought often
to enter this mysterious realm, and become habituated to its mental
processes, and by a wise anticipation become prepared for the reality

I. The human mind, in eternity, will have a distinct and unvarying
perception of the _character of God_. And that one particular attribute
in this character, respecting which the cognition will be of the most
luminous quality, is the Divine holiness. In eternity, the immaculateness
of the Deity will penetrate the consciousness of every rational creature
with the subtlety and the thoroughness of fire. God's essence is
infinitely pure, and intensely antagonistic to sin, but it is not until
there is a direct contact between it and the human mind, that man
understands it and feels it. "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the
ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee, and I abhor myself." Even the best of
men know but "in part" concerning the holiness of God. Yet it is
noticeable how the apprehension of it grows upon the ripening Christian,
as he draws nearer to the time of his departure. The vision of the
cherubim themselves seems to dawn upon the soul of a Leighton and an
Edwards, and though it does not in the least disturb their saintly and
seraphic peace, because they are sheltered in the clefts of the Rock of
Ages, as the brightness passes by them, it does yet bring out from their
comparatively holy and spiritual hearts the utterance, "Behold I am vile;
infinite upon, infinite is my sin." But what shall be said of the common
and ordinary knowledge of mankind, upon this subject! Except at certain
infrequent times, the natural man does not know even "in part,"
respecting the holiness of God, and hence goes on in transgression
without anxiety or terror. It is the very first work of prevenient grace,
to disclose to the human mind something of the Divine purity; and
whoever, at any moment, is startled by a more than common sense of God's
holy character, should regard it and cherish it as a token of benevolence
and care for his soul.

Now, in eternity this species of knowledge must exist in the very highest
degree. The human soul will be encircled by the character and attributes
of God. It cannot look in any direction without beholding it. It is not
so here. Here, in this life, man may and does avert his eye, and refuse
to look at the sheen and the splendor that pains his organ. He fastens
his glance upon the farm, or the merchandise, or the book, and
perseveringly determines not to see the purity of God that rebukes him.
And _here_ he can succeed. He can and does live days and months without
so much as a momentary glimpse of his Maker, and, as the apostle says,
is "without God" in this world. And yet such men do have, now and then, a
view of the face of God. It may be for an instant only. It may be merely
a thought, a gleam, a flash; and yet, like that quick flash of lightning,
of which our Lord speaks, that lighteneth out of the one part of heaven,
and shineth unto the other part, that cometh out of the East and shineth
even unto the West,--like that swift momentary flash which runs round the
whole horizon in the twinkling of an eye, this swift thought and gleam of
God's purity fills the whole guilty soul full of light. What spiritual
distress seizes the man in such moments, and of what a penetrating
perception of the Divine character is he possessed for an instant! It is
a distinct and an accurate knowledge, but, unlike the cognition of the
future state, it is not yet an inevitable and unintermittent one. He can
expel it, and become again an ignorant and indifferent being, as he was
before. He knows but "in part" at the very best, and this only

But carry this rational and accountable creature into eternity, denude
him of the body of sense, and take him out of the busy and noisy world of
sense into the silent world of spirits, and into the immediate presence
of God, and then he will know upon this subject even as he is known. That
sight and perception of God's purity which he had here for a brief
instant, and which was so painful because he was not in sympathy with it,
has now become everlasting. That distinct and accurate knowledge of
God's character has now become his only knowledge. That flash of
lightning has become light,--fixed, steady, permanent as the orb of day.
The rational spirit cannot for an instant rid itself of the idea of God.
Never for a moment, in the endless cycles, can it look away from its
Maker; for in His presence what other object is there to look at? Time
itself, with its pursuits and its objects of thought and feeling, is no
longer, for the angel hath sworn it by Him who liveth for ever and ever.
There is nothing left, then, to occupy and engross the attention but the
character and attributes of God; and, now, the immortal mind, created for
such a purpose, must yield itself up to that contemplation which in this
life it dreaded and avoided. The future state of every man is to be an
open and unavoidable vision of God. If he delights in the view, he will
be blessed; if he loathes it, he will be miserable. This is the substance
of heaven and hell. This is the key to the eternal destiny of every human
soul. If a man love God, he shall gaze at him and adore; if he hate God,
he shall gaze at him and gnaw his tongue for pain.

The subject, as thus far unfolded, teaches the following lessons:

1. In the first place, it shows that _a false theory of the future state
will not protect a man from future misery_. For, we have seen that the
eternal world, by its very structure and influences, throws a flood of
light upon the Divine character, causing it to appear in its ineffable
purity and splendor, and compels every creature to stand out in that
light. There is no darkness in which man can hide himself, when he leaves
this world of shadows. A false theory, therefore, respecting God, can no
more protect a man from the reality, the actual matter of fact, than a
false theory of gravitation will preserve a man from falling from a
precipice into a bottomless abyss. Do you come to us with the theory
that every human creature will be happy in another life, and that the
doctrine of future misery is false? We tell you, in reply, that God is
_holy_, beyond dispute or controversy; that He cannot endure the sight of
sin; and that in the future world every one of His creatures must see Him
precisely as He is, and know Him in the real and eternal qualities of His
nature. The man, therefore, who is full of sin, whose heart is earthly,
sensual, selfish, must, when he approaches that pure Presence, find that
his theory of future happiness shrivels up like the heavens themselves,
before the majesty and glory of God. He now stands face to face with a
Being whose character has never dawned upon him with such a dazzling
purity, and to dispute the reality would be like disputing the fierce
splendor of the noonday sun. Theory must give way to fact, and the
deluded mortal must submit to its awful force.

In this lies the _irresistible_ power of death, judgment, and eternity,
to alter the views of men. Up to these points they can dispute and argue,
because there is no ocular demonstration. It is possible to debate the
question this side of the tomb, because we are none of us face to face
with God, and front to front with eternity. In the days of Noah, before
the flood came, there was skepticism, and many theories concerning the
threatened deluge. So long as the sky was clear, and the green earth
smiled under the warm sunlight, it was not difficult for the unbeliever
to maintain an argument in opposition to the preacher of righteousness.
But when the sky was rent with lightnings, and the earth was scarred with
thunder-bolts, and the fountains of the great deep were broken up, where
was the skepticism? where were the theories? where were the arguments?
When God teaches, "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the
disputer of this world?" They then knew as they were known; they stood
face to face with the facts.

It is this _inevitableness_ of the demonstration upon which we would
fasten attention. We are not always to live in this world of shadows. We
are going individually into the very face and eyes of Jehovah, and
whatever notions we may have adopted and maintained must all disappear,
except as they shall be actually verified by what we shall see and know
in that period of our existence when we shall perceive with the accuracy
and clearness of God Himself. Our most darling theories, by which we may
have sought to solace our souls in reference to our future destiny, if
false, will be all ruthlessly torn away, and we must see what verily and
eternally is. All mankind come upon one doctrinal platform when they
enter eternity. They all have one creed there. There is not a skeptic
even in hell. The devils believe and tremble. The demonstration that God
is holy is so irrefragable, so complete and absolute, that doubt or
denial is impossible in any spirit that has passed the line between time
and eternity.

2. In the second place, this subject shows that _indifference and
carelessness respecting the future life will not protect the soul from
future misery_. There may be no false theory adopted, and yet if there be
no thoughtful preparation to meet God, the result will be all the same. I
may not dispute the Newtonian theory of gravitation, yet if I pay no heed
to it, if I simply forget it, as I clamber up mountains, and walk by the
side of precipices, my body will as surely be dashed to pieces as if I
were a theoretical skeptic upon the subject of gravitation.

The creature's indifference can no more alter the immutable nature of
God, than can the creature's false reasoning, or false theorizing. That
which is settled in heaven, that which is fixed and eternal, stands the
same stern, relentless fact under all circumstances. We see the operation
of this sometimes here upon earth, in a very impressive manner. A youth
or a man simply neglects the laws and conditions of physical well-being.
He does not dispute them. He merely pays no attention to them. A. few
years pass by, and disease and torturing pain become his portion. He
comes now into the awful presence of the powers and the facts which the
Creator has inlaid in the world, of physical existence. He knows now even
as he is known. And the laws are stern. He finds no place of repentance
in them, though he seek it carefully with tears. The laws never repent,
never change their mind. The principles of physical life and growth which
he has never disputed, but which he has never regarded, now crush him
into the ground in their relentless march and motion.

Precisely so will it be in the moral world, and with reference to the
holiness of God. That man who simply neglects to prepare himself to see a
holy God, though he never denies that there is such a Being, will find
the vision just as unendurable to him, as it is to the most determined of
earthly skeptics. So far as the final result in the other world is
concerned, it matters little whether a man adds unbelief to his
carelessness, or not. The carelessness will ruin his soul, whether with
or without skepticism. Orthodoxy is valuable only as it inspires the hope
that it will end in timely and practical attention to the concerns of the
soul. But if you show me a man who you infallibly know will go through
life careless and indifferent, I will show you a man who will not be
prepared to meet God face to face, even though his theology be as
accurate as that of St. Paul himself. Nay, we have seen that there is a
time coming when all skeptics will become believers like the devils
themselves, and will tremble at the ocular demonstration of truths which
they have heretofore denied. Theoretical unbelief must be a temporary
affair in every man; for it can last only until he dies. Death will make
all the world theoretically orthodox, and bring them all to one and the
same creed. But death will not bring them all to one and the same happy
experience of the truth, and lave of the creed. For those who have made
preparation for the vision of God and the ocular demonstration of Divine
truth, these will rise upon their view with a blessed and glorious light.
But for those who have remained sinful and careless, these eternal truths
and facts will be a vision of terror and despair. They will not alter. No
man will find any place of repentance in them, though, like Esau, he seek
it carefully and with tears.

3. In the third place, this subject shows that _only faith in Christ and
a new heart can protect the soul from future misery_. The nature and
character of God cannot be altered, and therefore the change must be
wrought in man's soul. The disposition and affections of the heart must
be brought into such sweet sympathy and harmony with God's holiness, that
when in the next world that holiness shall be revealed as it is to the
seraphim, it will fall in upon the soul like the rays of a vernal sun,
starting every thing into cheerful life and joy. If the Divine holiness
does not make this impression, it produces exactly the contrary effect.
If the sun's rays do not start the bud in the spring, they kill it. If
the vision of a holy God is not our heaven, then it must be our hell.
Look then directly into your heart, and tell us which is the impression
for you. Can you say with David, "We give thanks and rejoice, at the
remembrance of Thy holiness?" Are you glad that there is such a pure and
immaculate Being upon the throne, and when His excellence abashes you,
and rebukes your corruption and sin, do you say, "Let the righteous One
smite me, it shall be a kindness?" Do you _love_ God's holy character? If
so, you are a new creature, and are ready for the vision of God, face to
face. For you, to know God even as you are known by Him will not be a
terror, but a glory and a joy. You are in sympathy with Him. You have
been reconciled to Him by the blood of atonement, and brought into
harmony with Him by the washing of regeneration. For you, as a believer
in Christ, and a new man in Christ Jesus, all is well. The more you see
of God, the more you desire to see of Him; and the more you know of Him,
the more you long to know.

But if this is not your experience, then all is ill with you. We say
_experience_. You must _feel_ in this manner toward God, or you cannot
endure the vision which is surely to break upon you after death. You must
_love_ this holiness without which no man can see the Lord. You may
approve of it, you may praise it in other men, but if there is no
affectionate going out of your own heart toward, the holy God, you are
not in right relations to Him. You have the carnal mind, and that is
enmity, and enmity is misery.

Look these facts in the eye, and act accordingly. "Make the _tree_ good,
and his fruit good," says Christ. Begin at the beginning. Aim at nothing
less than a change of disposition and affections. Ask for nothing less,
seek for nothing less. If you become inwardly holy as God is holy; if you
become a friend of God, reconciled to Him by the blood of Christ; then
your nature will be like God's nature, your character like God's
character. Then, when you shall know God even as you are known by Him,
and shall see Him as He is, the knowledge and the vision will be
everlasting joy.

[Footnote 1:

"She has seen the mystery hid,
Under Egypt's pyramid;
By those eyelids pale and close,
Now she knows what Rhamses knows."
ELIZABETH BROWNING: On the Death of a Child.]


1 COR. xiii. 12.--"Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also
I am known."

In the preceding discourse, we found in these words the principal
characteristic of our future existence. The world beyond the tomb is a
world of clear and conscious knowledge. When, at death, I shall leave
this region of time and sense and enter eternity, my knowledge, the
apostle Paul tells me instead of being diminished or extinguished by the
dissolution, of the body, will not only be continued to me, but will be
even greater and clearer than before. He assures me that the kind and
style of my cognition will be like that of God himself. I am to know as I
am known. My intelligence will coincide with that of Deity.

By this we are not to understand that the creature's knowledge, in the
future state, will be as extensive as that of the Omniscient One; or that
it will be as profound and exhaustive as His. The infinitude of things
can be known only by the Infinite Mind; and the creature will forever be
making new acquisitions, and never reaching the final limit of truths and
facts. But upon certain moral subjects, the perception of the creature
will be like that of his Maker and Judge, so far as the _kind_ or
_quality_ of the apprehension is concerned. Every man in eternity, for
illustration, will see sin to be an odious and abominable thing, contrary
to the holy nature of God, and awakening in that nature the most holy and
awful displeasure. His knowledge upon this subject will be so identical
with that of God, that he will be unable to palliate or excuse his
transgressions, as he does in this world. He will see them precisely as
God sees them. He must know them as God knows them, because he will "know
even as he is known."

II. In continuing the examination of this solemn subject, we remark as a
second and further characteristic of the knowledge which every man will
possess in eternity, that he will know _himself_ even as he is known by
God. His knowledge of God we have found to be direct, accurate, and
unceasing; his knowledge of his own heart will be so likewise. This
follows from the relation of the two species of cognition to each other.
The true knowledge of God involves the true knowledge of self. The
instant that any one obtains a clear view of the holy nature of his
Maker, he obtains a clear view of his own sinful nature. Philosophers
tell us, that our consciousness of God and our consciousness of self
mutually involve and imply each other[1]; in other words, that we cannot
know God without immediately knowing ourselves, any more than we can know
light without knowing darkness, any more than we can have the idea of
right without having the idea of wrong. And it is certainly true that so
soon as any being can intelligently say, "God is holy," he can and must
say, "I am holy," or, "I am unholy," as the fact may be. Indeed, the only
way in which man can truly know himself is to contrast himself with his
Maker; and the most exhaustive self-knowledge and self-consciousness is
to be found, not in the schools of secular philosophy but, in the
searchings of the Christian heart,--in the "Confessions" of Augustine; in
the labyrinthine windings of Edwards "On the Affections." Hence the
frequent exhortations in the Bible to look at the character of God, in
order that we may know ourselves and be abased by the contrast. In
eternity, therefore, if we must have a clear and constant perception of
God's character, we must necessarily have a distinct and unvarying
knowledge of our own. It is not so here. Here in this world, man knows
himself but "in part." Even when he endeavors to look within, prejudice
and passion often affect his judgment; but more often, the fear of what
he shall discover in the secret places of his soul deters him from making
the attempt at self-examination. For it is a surprising truth that the
transgressor dares not bring out into the light that which is most truly
his own, that which he himself has originated, and which he loves and
cherishes with all his strength and might. He is afraid of his own heart!
Even when God forces the vision of it upon him, he would shut his eyes;
or if this be not possible, he would look through distorting media and
see it with a false form and coloring.

"But 'tis not so above;
There is no shuffling; there the action lies
In his true nature: and we ourselves compelled,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence."[2]

The spirit that has come into the immediate presence of God, and beholds
Him face to face, cannot deceive Him, and therefore cannot deceive
itself. It cannot remain ignorant of God's character any longer, and
therefore cannot remain ignorant of its own.

We do not sufficiently consider and ponder the elements of anguish that
are sleeping in the fact that in eternity a sinner _must_ know God's
character, and therefore _must_ know his own. It is owing to their
neglect of such subjects, that mankind so little understand what an awful
power there is in the distinct perception of the Divine purity, and the
allied consciousness of sin. Lord Bacon tells us that the knowledge
acquired in the schools is power; but it is weakness itself, if compared
with that form and species of cognition which is given to the mind of man
by the workings of conscience in the light of the Divine countenance. If
a transgressor knew clearly what disclosures of God's immaculateness and
of his own character must be made to him in eternity, he would fear them,
if unprepared, far more than physical sufferings. If he understood what
capabilities for distress the rational spirit possesses in its own
mysterious constitution, if when brought into contact with the Divine
purity it has no sympathy with it, but on the contrary an intense
hostility; if he knew how violent will be the antagonism between God's
holiness and man's sin when, the two are finally brought together, the
assertion that there is no external source of anguish in hell, even if it
were true, would afford him no relief. Whoever goes into the presence of
God with a corrupt heart carries thither a source of sorrow that is
inexhaustible, simply because that corrupt heart must be _distinctly
known_, and _perpetually understood_ by its possessor, in that Presence.
The thoughtless man may never know while upon earth, even "in part," the
depth and the bitterness of this fountain,--he may go through this life
for the most part self-ignorant and undistressed,--but he must know in
that other, final, world the immense fulness of its woe, as it
unceasingly wells up into everlasting death. One theory of future
punishment is, that our globe will become a penal orb of fire, and the
wicked with material bodies, miraculously preserved by Omnipotence, will
burn forever in it. But what is this compared with the suffering soul?
The spirit itself, thus alienated from God's purity and _conscious_ that
it is, wicked, and _knowing_ that it is wicked, becomes an "orb of fire."
"It is,"--says John Howe, who was no fanatic, but one of the most
thoughtful and philosophic of Christians,--"it is a throwing hell into
hell, when a wicked man comes to hell; for he was his own hell

It must ever be borne in mind, that the principal source and seat of
future torment will be the sinner's _sin_. We must never harbor the
thought, or fall into the notion, that the retributions of eternity are a
wanton and arbitrary infliction upon the part of God. Some men seem to
suppose, or at any rate they represent, that the woes of hell are a
species of undeserved suffering; that God, having certain helpless and
innocent creatures in His power, visits them with wrath, in the exercise
of an arbitrary sovereignty. But this is not Christ's doctrine of endless
punishment. There is no suffering inflicted, here or hereafter, upon any
thing but _sin,_--unrepented, incorrigible sin,--and if you will show
me a sinless creature, I will show you one who will never feel the least
twinge or pang through all eternity. Death is the wages of _sin_. The
substance of the wretchedness of the lost will issue right out of their
own character. They will see their own wickedness steadily and clearly,
and this will make them miserable. It will be the carrying out of the
same principle that operates here in time, and in our own daily
experience. Suppose that by some method, all the sin of my heart, and all
the sins of my outward conduct, were made clear to my own view; suppose
that for four-and-twenty hours continuously I were compelled to look at
my wickedness intently, just as I would look intently into a burning
furnace of fire; suppose that for this length of time I should see
nothing, and hear nothing, and experience nothing of the world, about me,
but should be absorbed in the vision of my own disobedience of God's good
law, think you that (setting aside the work of Christ) I should be happy?
On the contrary, should I not be the most wretched of mortals? Would not
this self-knowledge be pure living torment? And yet the misery springs
entirely out of the _sin_. There is nothing arbitrary or wanton in the
suffering. It is not brought in upon me from the outside. It comes out of
myself. And, while I was writhing under the sense and power of my
transgressions, would you mock me, by telling me that I was a poor
innocent struggling in the hands of omnipotent malice; that the suffering
was unjust, and that if there were any justice in the universe, I should
be delivered from it? No, we shall suffer in the future world only as we
are sinners, and because we are sinners. There will be weeping and
wailing and gnashing of teeth, only because the sinful creature will be
compelled to look at himself; to know his sin in the same manner that it
is known by the Infinite Intelligence. And is there any injustice in
this? If a sinful being cannot bear the sight of himself, would you have
the holy Deity step in between him and his sins, so that he should not
see them, and so that he might be happy in them? Away with such folly and
such wickedness. For it is the height of wickedness to desire that some
method should be invented, and introduced into the universe of God,
whereby the wages of sin shall be life and joy; whereby a sinner can look
into his own wicked heart and be happy.

III. A third characteristic of the knowledge which every man will possess
in eternity will be a clear understanding of _the nature and wants of the
soul._ Man has that in his constitution, which needs God, and which
cannot be at rest except in God. A state of sin is a state of alienation
and separation from the Creator. It is, consequently, in its intrinsic
nature, a state of restlessness and dissatisfaction. "There is no peace
saith my God to the wicked; the wicked are like the troubled sea." In
order to know this, it is only necessary to bring an apostate creature,
like man, to a consciousness of the original requirements and necessities
of his being. But upon this subject, man while upon earth most certainly
knows only "in part." Most men are wholly ignorant of the constitutional
needs of a rational spirit, and are not aware that it is as impossible
for the creature, when in eternity, to live happily out of God, as it is
for the body to live at all in the element of fire. Most men, while here
upon earth, do not know upon this subject as they are known. God knows
that the whole created universe cannot satisfy the desires of an immortal
being, but impenitent men do not know this fact with a clear perception,
and they will not until they die and go into another world.

And the reason is this. So long as the worldly natural man lives upon
earth, he can find a sort of substitute for God. He has a capacity for
loving, and he satisfies it to a certain degree by loving himself; by
loving fame, wealth, pleasure, or some form of creature-good. He has a
capacity for thinking, and he gratifies it in a certain manner by
pondering the thoughts of other minds, or by original speculations of his
own. And so we might go through with the list of man's capacities, and we
should find, that he contrives, while here upon earth, to meet these
appetences of his nature, after a sort, by the objects of time and sense,
and to give his soul a species of satisfaction short of God, and away
from God. Fame, wealth, and pleasure; the lust of the flesh, the lust of
the eye, and the pride of life; become a substitute for the Creator, in
his search, for happiness. As a consequence, the unregenerate man knows
but "in part" respecting the primitive and constitutional necessities of
his being. He is feeding them with a false and unhealthy food, and in
this way manages to stifle for a season their true and deep cravings. But
this cannot last forever. When a man dies and goes into eternity, he
takes nothing with him but his character and his moral affinities. "We
brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry
nothing out." The original requirements and necessities of his soul are
not destroyed by death, but the earthly objects by which he sought to
meet them, and by which he did meet them after a sort, are totally
destroyed. He still has a capacity for loving; but in eternity where is
the fame, the wealth, the pleasure upon which he has hitherto expended
it? He still has a capacity for thinking; but where are the farm, the
merchandise, the libraries, the works of art, the human literatures, and
the human philosophies, upon which he has heretofore employed it? The
instant you cut off a creature who seeks his good in the world, and not
in God, from intercourse with the world, you cause him to know even as he
is known respecting the true and proper portion of his soul. Deprived of
his accustomed and his false object of love and support, he immediately
begins to reach out in all directions for something to love, something to
think of, something to trust in, and finds nothing. Like that insect in
our gardens which spins a slender thread by which to guide itself in its
meanderings, and which when the clew is cut thrusts out its head in every
direction, but does not venture to advance, the human creature who has
suddenly been cut off by death from his accustomed objects of support and
pleasure stretches out in every direction for something to take their
place. And the misery of his case is, that when in his reachings out he
sees God, or comes into contact with God, he starts back like the little
insect when you present a coal of fire to it. He needs as much as ever,
to love some being or some thing. But he has no heart to love God and
there is no other being and no other thing in eternity to love. He needs,
as much as ever, to think of some object or some subject. But to think of
God is a distress to him; to reflect upon divine and holy things is
weariness and woe. He is a carnal, earthly-minded man, and therefore
cannot find enjoyment in such meditations. Before he can take relish in
such objects and such thinking, he must be born again; he must become a
new creature. But there is no new-birth of the soul in eternity. The
disposition and character which a man takes along with him when he dies
remains eternally unchanged. The constitutional wants still continue. The
man must love, and must think. But the only object in eternity upon which
such capability can be expended is God; and the carnal mind, saith the
Scripture, is _enmity_ against God, and is not subject to the law of God,
neither indeed can be.

Now, whatever may be the course of a man in this life; whether he becomes
aware of these created imperatives, and constitutional necessities of his
immortal spirit or not; whether he hears its reproaches and rebukes
because he is feeding them with the husks of earth, instead of the bread
of heaven, or not; it is certain that in the eternal world they will be
continually awake and perpetually heard. For that spiritual world will be
fitted up for nothing but a rational spirit. There will be nothing
material, nothing like earth, in its arrangements. Flesh and blood cannot
inherit either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. The enjoyments
and occupations of this sensuous and material state will be found neither
in heaven nor in hell. Eternity is a spiritual region, and all its
objects, and all its provisions, will have reference solely to the
original capacities and destination of a spiritual creature. They will,
therefore, all be terribly reminiscent of apostasy; only serving to
remind the soul of what it was originally designed to be, and of what it
has now lost by worshipping and loving the creature more than the
Creator. How wretched then must man be, when, with the awakening of this
restlessness and dissatisfaction of an immortal spirit, and with the
bright pattern of what he ought to be continually before his eye, there
is united an intensity of self-love and enmity toward God, that drives
him anywhere and everywhere but to his Maker, for peace and comfort. How
full of woe must the lost creature be, when his immortal necessities are
awakened and demand their proper food, but cannot obtain it, because of
the aversion of the heart toward the only Being who can satisfy them.
For, the same hatred of holiness, and disinclination toward spiritual
things, which prevents a man from choosing God for his portion here,
will prevent him hereafter. It is the bold fancy of an imaginative
thinker,[4] that the material forces which lie beneath external nature
are conscious of being bound down and confined under the crust of the
earth, like the giant Enceladus under Mt. Etna, and that there are times
when they roar from the depths where they are in bondage, and call aloud
for freedom; when they rise in their might, and manifest themselves in
the earthquake and the volcano. It will be a more fearful and terrific
struggle, when the powers of an apostate being are roused in eternity;
when the then eternal sin and guilt has its hour of triumph, and the
eternal reason and conscience have their hour of judgment and remorse;
when the inner world of man's spirit, by this schism and antagonism
within it, has a devastation and a ruin spread over it more awful than
that of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

We have thus, in this and the preceding discourse, considered the kind
and quality of that knowledge which every human being will possess in the
eternal world. He will know God, and he will know himself, with a
distinct, and accurate, and unceasing intelligence like that of the
Deity. It is one of the most solemn and startling themes that can be
presented to the human mind. We have not been occupied with what will be
_around_ a creature, what will be _outside_ of a man, in the life to
come; but we have been examining what will be _within_ him. We have been
considering what he will think of beyond the tomb; what his own feelings
will be when he meets God face to face. But a man's immediate
consciousness determines his happiness or his misery. As a man thinketh
in his heart so is he. We must not delude ourselves with the notion, that
the mere arrangements and circumstances of the spiritual world will
decide our weal or our woe, irrespective of the tenor of our thoughts and
affections; that if we are only placed in pleasant gardens or in golden
streets, all will be well. As a man thinketh in his heart, so will he be
in his experience. This vision of God, and of our own hearts, will be
either the substance of heaven, or the substance of hell. The great
future is a world of open vision. Now, we see through a glass darkly, but
then, face to face. The vision for every human creature will be beatific,
if he is prepared for it; will be terrific, if he is unprepared.

Does not the subject, then, speak with solemn warning to every one who
knows that he is not prepared for the coming revelations that will be
made to him when he dies; for this clear and accurate knowledge of God,
and of his own character? Do you believe that there is an eternal world,
and that the general features of this mode of existence have been
scripturally depicted? Do you suppose that your present knowledge of the
holiness of God, and of your own sinful nature, is equal to what it will
be when your spirit returns to God who gave it? Are you prepared for the
impending and inevitable disclosures and revelations of the day of
judgment? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God, who
came forth from eternity eighteen centuries since, and went back into
eternity, leaving upon record for human instruction an unexaggerated
description of that invisible world, founded upon the personal knowledge
of an eye-witness?

Whoever thus believes, concerning the record which Christ and His
apostles have left for the information of dim-eyed mortals who see only
"through a glass darkly," and who know only "in part," ought immediately
to adopt their descriptions and ponder them long and well. We have
already observed, that the great reason why the future state exerts so
little influence over worldly men lies in the fact, that they do not
bring it into distinct view. They live absorbed in the interests and
occupations of earth, and their future abode throws in upon them none of
its solemn shadows and warnings. A clear luminous perception of the
nature and characteristics of that invisible world which is soon to
receive them, would make them thoughtful and anxious for their souls; for
they would become aware of their utter unfitness, their entire lack of
preparation, to see God face to face. Still, live and act as sinful men
may, eternity is over and around them all, even as the firmament is bent
over the globe. If theirs were a penitent and a believing eye, they would
look up with adoration into its serene depths, and joyfully behold the
soft gleam of its stars, and it would send down upon them the sweet
influences of its constellations. They may shut their eyes upon all this
glory, and feel only earthly influences, and continue to be "of the
earth, earthy." But there is a time coming when they cannot but look at
eternity; when this firmament will throw them into consternation by the
livid glare of its lightnings, and will compel them to hear the quick
rattle and peal of its thunder; when it will not afford them a vision of
glory and joy, as it will the redeemed and the holy, but one of despair
and destruction.

There is only one shelter from this storm; there is only one covert from
this tempest. He, and only he, who trusts in Christ's blood of atonement,
will be able to look into the holy countenance of God, and upon the dread
record of his own sins, without either trembling or despair. The merits
and righteousness of Christ so clothe the guilty soul, that it can endure
the otherwise intolerable brightness of God's pure throne and presence.

"Jesus! Thy blood and righteousness,
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Mid flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head."

Amidst those great visions that are to dawn upon every human creature,
those souls will be in perfect peace who trust in the Great Propitiation.
In those great tempests that are to shake down the earth and the sky,
those hearts will be calm and happy who are hid in the clefts of the Rock
of Ages. Flee then to Christ, ye prisoners of hope. Make preparation to
know even as you are known, by repentance toward God and faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ. A voice comes to you out of the cloud, saying, "This
is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." Remember, and
forget not, that this knowledge of God and your own heart is
_inevitable._ At death, it will all of it flash upon the soul like
lightning at midnight. It will fill the whole horizon of your being full
of light. If you are in Christ Jesus, the light will not harm you. But if
you are out of Christ, it will blast you. No sinful mortal can endure
such a vision an instant, except as he is sprinkled with atoning blood,
and clothed in the righteousness of the great Substitute and Surety for
guilty man. Flee then to CHRIST, and so be prepared to know God and your
own heart, even as you are known.

[Footnote 1: Noverim me, noverim Te.--BERNARD.]

[Footnote 2: Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act III., Sc. 4.]

[Footnote 3: Howe: On Regeneration. Sermon xliii.]

[Footnote 4: Bookschammer: On the Will.]


PSALM cxxxix. I-6.--"O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou
knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought
afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted
with, all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord,
thou knowest it altogether. Thou, hast beset me behind and before, and
laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is
high, I cannot attain unto it."

One of the most remarkable characteristics of a rational being is the
power of self-inspection. The brute creation possesses many attributes
that are common to human nature, but it has no faculty that bears even
the remotest resemblance to that of self-examination. Instinctive action,
undoubtedly, approaches the nearest of any to human action. That
wonderful power by which the bee builds up a structure that is not
exceeded in accuracy, and regularity, and economy of space, by the best
geometry of Athens or of Rome; by which the beaver, after having chosen
the very best possible location for it on the stream, constructs a dam
that outlasts the work of the human engineer; by which the faithful dog
contrives to perform many acts of affection, in spite of obstacles, and
in the face of unexpected discouragements,--the _instinct_, we say, of
the brute creation, as exhibited in a remarkably wide range of action and
contrivance, and in a very varied and oftentimes perplexing conjuncture
of circumstances, seems to bring man and beast very near to each other,
and to furnish some ground for the theory of the materialist, that there
is no essential difference between the two species of existences. But
when we pass beyond the mere power of acting, to the additional power of
_surveying_ or _inspecting_ an act, and of forming an estimate of its
relations to moral law, we find a faculty in man that makes him differ in
kind from the brute. No brute animal, however high up the scale, however
ingenious and sagacious he may be, can ever look back and think of what
he has done, "his thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing him."

The mere power of performance, is, after all, not the highest power. It
is the superadded power of calmly looking over the performance, and
seeing _what_ has been done, that marks the higher agency, and denotes a
loftier order of existence than that of the animal or of material nature.
If the mere ability to work with energy, and produce results, constituted
the highest species of power, the force of gravitation would be the
loftiest energy in the universe. Its range of execution is wider than
that of any other created principle. But it is one of the lower and least
important of agencies, because it is blind. It is destitute of the power
of self-inspection. It does not know _what_ it does, or _why_. "Man,"
says Pascal,[1] "is but a reed, and the weakest in all nature; yet he is
a reed that _thinks_. The whole material universe does not need to arm
itself, in order to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water is enough to
destroy him. But if the whole universe of matter should combine to crush
him, man would be more noble than that which destroyed him. For he would
be _conscious_ that he was dying, while, of the advantage which the
material universe had obtained over him, that universe would know
nothing." The action of a little child is altogether nothing and vanity
compared with the energy of the earthquake or the lightning, so far as
the exhibition of force and the mere power to act is concerned; but, on
the other hand, it is more solemn than centuries of merely natural
processes, and more momentous than all the material phenomena that have
ever filled the celestial spaces, when we remember that it is the act of
a thinking agent, and a self-conscious creature. The power to _survey_
the act, when united with the power to act, sets mind infinitely above
matter, and places the action of instinct, wonderful as it is, infinitely
below the action of self-consciousness. The proud words of one of the
characters in the old drama are strictly true:

"I am a nobler substance than the stars,
Or are they better since they are bigger?
I have a will and faculties of choice,
To do or not to do; and reason why
I do or not do this: the stars have none.
They know not why they shine, more than this taper,
Nor how they, work, nor what."[2]

But this characteristic of a rational being, though thus distinctive and
common to every man that lives, is exceedingly marvellous. Like the air
we breathe, like the light we see, it involves a mystery that no man has
ever solved. Self-consciousness has been the problem and the thorn of the
philosophic mind in all ages; and the mystery is not yet unravelled. Is
not that a wonderful process by which a man knows, not some other thing
but, _himself_? Is not that a strange act by which he, for a time,
duplicates his own unity, and sets himself to look at himself? All other
acts of consciousness are comparatively plain and explicable. When we
look at an object other than ourselves,--when we behold a tree or the
sky,--the act of knowledge is much more simple and easy to be explained.
For then there is something outside of us, and in front of us, and
another thing than we are, at which we look, and which we behold. But in
this act of _self_-inspection there is no second thing, external, and
extant to us, which we contemplate. That which is seen is one and the
same identical object with that which sees. The act of knowledge which in
all other instances requires the existence of two things,--a thing to be
known and a thing to know,--in this instance is performed with only one.
It is the individual soul that sees, and it is that very same individual
soul that is seen. It is the individual man that knows, and it is that
very identical man that is known. The eyeball looks at the eyeball.

And when this power of self-inspection is connected with the power of
memory, the mystery of human existence becomes yet more complicated, and
its explanation still more baffling. Is it not exceedingly wonderful,
that we are able to re-exhibit our own thoughts and feelings; that we can
call back what has gone clear by in our experience, and steadily look at
it once more? Is it not a mystery that we can summon before our mind's
eye feelings, purposes, desires, and thoughts, which occurred in the soul
long years ago, and which, perhaps, until this moment, we have not
thought of for years? Is it not a marvel, that they come up with all the
vividness with which they first took origin in our experience, and that
the lapse of time has deprived them of none of their first outlines or
colors? Is it not strange, that we can recall that one particular feeling
of hatred toward a fellow-man which, rankled in the heart twenty years
ago; that we can now eye it, and see it as plainly as if it were still
throbbing within us; that we can feel guilty for it once more, as if we
were still cherishing it? If it were not so common, would it not be
surprising, that we can reflect upon acts of disobedience toward God
which we committed in the days of childhood, and far back in the dim
twilights of moral agency; that we can re-act them, as it were, in our
memory, and fill ourselves again with the shame and distress that
attended their original commission? Is it not one of those mysteries
which overhang human existence, and from which that of the brute is
wholly free, that man can live his life, and act his agency, over,
and over, and over again, indefinitely and forever, in his
self-consciousness; that he can cause all his deeds to pass and re-pass
before his self-reflection, and be filled through and through with the
agony of self-knowledge? Truly _such_ knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I _go_ from my _own_
spirit, and whither shall I flee from my _own_ presence. If I ascend up
into heaven, it is there looking at me. If I make my bed in hell, behold
it is there torturing me. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in
the uttermost parts of the sea, even there must I know myself, and acquit
or condemn myself.

But if that knowledge whereby man knows himself is mysterious, then
certainly that whereby God knows him is far more so. That act whereby
_another_ being knows my secret thoughts, and inmost feelings, is most
certainly inexplicable. That cognition whereby _another_ person
understands what takes place in the corners of my heart, and sees the
minutest movements of my spirit, is surely high; most surely I cannot
attain unto it.

And yet, it is a truth of revelation that God searches the heart of man;
that He knows his down-sitting and uprising, and understands his thought
afar off; that He compasses his path and his lying-down, and is
acquainted with all his ways. And yet, it is a deduction of reason, also,
that because God is the creator of the human mind, He must perfectly
understand its secret agencies; that He in whose Essence man lives and
moves and has his being, must behold every motion, and feel every
stirring of the human spirit. "He that planted the ear, shall He not
hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see?" Let us, then, ponder the
fact of God's exhaustive knowledge of man's soul, that we may realize it,
and thereby come under its solemn power and impression. For all religion,
all holy and reverential fear of God, rises and sets, as in an
atmosphere, in the thought: "Thou God seest me."

I. In analyzing and estimating the Divine knowledge of the human soul, we
find, in the first place, that God accurately and exhaustively knows _all
that man knows of himself_.

Every man in a Christian land, who is in the habit of frequenting the
house of God, possesses more or less of that self-knowledge of which we
have spoken. He thinks of the moral character of some of his own
thoughts. He reflects upon the moral quality of some of his own feelings.
He considers the ultimate tendency of some of his own actions. In other
words, there is a part of his inward and his outward life with which he
is uncommonly well acquainted; of which he has a distinct perception.
There are some thoughts of his mind, at which he blushes at the very time
of their origin, because he is vividly aware what they are, and what they
mean. There are some emotions of his heart, at which he trembles and
recoils at the very moment of their uprising, because he perceives
clearly that they involve a very malignant depravity. There are some
actings of his will, of whose wickedness he is painfully conscious at the
very instant of their rush and movement. We are not called upon, here, to
say how many of a man's thoughts, feelings, and determinations, are thus
subjected to his self-inspection at the very time of their origin, and
are known in the clear light of self-knowledge. We are not concerned, at
this point, with the amount of this man's self-inspection and
self-knowledge. We are only saying that there is some experience such as
this in his personal history, and that he does know something of himself,
at the very time of action, with a clearness and a distinctness that
makes him start, or blush, or fear.

Now we say, that in reference to all this intimate self-knowledge, all
this best part of a man's information respecting himself, he is not
superior to God. He may be certain that in no particular does he know
more of himself than the Searcher of hearts knows. He may be an
uncommonly thoughtful person, and little of what is done within his soul
may escape his notice,--nay, we will make the extreme supposition that he
arrests every thought as it rises, and looks at it, that he analyzes
every sentiment as it swells his heart, that he scrutinizes every purpose
as it determines his will,--even if he should have such a thorough and
profound self-knowledge as this, God knows him equally profoundly, and
equally thoroughly. Nay more, this process of self-inspection may go on
indefinitely, and the man may grow more and more thoughtful, and obtain
an everlastingly augmenting knowledge of what he is and what he does, so
that it shall seem to him that he is going down so far along that path
which the vulture's eye hath not seen, is penetrating so deeply into
those dim and shadowy regions of consciousness where the external life
takes its very first start, as to be beyond the reach of any eye, and
the ken of any intelligence but his own, and then he may be sure that God
understands the thought that is afar off, and deep down, and that at this
lowest range and plane in his experience He besets him behind and before.

O, this man, like the most of mankind, may be an unreflecting person.
Then, in this case, thoughts, feelings, and purposes are continually
rising up within his soul like the clouds and exhalations of an
evaporating deluge, and at the time of their rise he subjects them to no
scrutiny of conscience, and is not pained in the least by their moral
character and significance. He lacks self-knowledge altogether, at these
points in his history. But, notice that the fact that he is not
self-inspecting at these points cannot destroy the fact that he is acting
at them. The fact that he is not a spectator of his own transgression,
does not alter the fact that he is the author of it. If this man, for
instance, thinks over his worldly affairs on God's holy day, and perhaps
in God's holy house, with such an absorption and such a pleasure that he
entirely drowns the voice of conscience while he is so doing, and
self-inspection is banished for the time, it will not do for him to plead
this absence of a distinct and painful consciousness of what his mind was
actually doing in the house of God, and upon the Lord's day, as the
palliative and excuse of his wrong thoughts. If this man, again, indulges
in an envious or a sensual emotion, with such an energy and entireness,
as for the time being to preclude all action of the higher powers of
reason and self-reflection, so that for the time being he is not in the
least troubled by a sense of his wickedness, it will be no excuse for him
at the eternal bar, that he was not thinking of his envy or his lust at
the time when he felt it. And therefore it is, that accountableness
covers the whole field of human agency, and God holds us responsible
for our thoughtless sin, as well as for our deliberate transgression.

In the instance, then, of the thoughtless man; in the case where there is
little or no self-examination; God unquestionably knows the man as well
as the man knows himself. The Omniscient One is certainly possessed of an
amount of knowledge equal to that small modicum which is all that a
rational and immortal soul can boast of in reference to itself. But the
vast majority of mankind fall into this class. The self-examiners are
very few, in comparison with the millions who possess the power to look
into their hearts, but who rarely or never do so. The great God our
Judge, then, surely knows the mass of men, in their down-sitting and
uprising, with a knowledge that is equal to their own. And thus do we
establish our first position, that God knows all that the man knows;
God's knowledge is equal to the very best part of man's knowledge.

In concluding this part of the discussion, we turn to consider some
practical lessons suggested by it.

1. In the first place, the subject reminds us that _we are fearfully and
wonderfully made_. When we take a solar microscope and examine even the
commonest object--a bit of sand, or a hair of our heads-we are amazed at
the revelation that is made to us. We had no previous conception of the
wonders that are contained in the structure of even such ordinary things
as these. But, if we should obtain a corresponding view of our own mental
and moral structure; if we could subject our immortal natures to a
microscopic self-examination; we should not only be surprised, but we
should be terrified. This explains, in part, the consternation with which
a criminal is filled, as soon as he begins to understand the nature of
his crime. His wicked act is perceived in its relation to his own mental
powers and faculties. He knows, now, what a hazardous thing it is to
possess a free-will; what an awful thing it is to own a conscience. He
feels, as he never did before, that he is fearfully and wonderfully made,
and cries out: "O that I had never been born! O that I had never been
created a responsible being! these terrible faculties of reason, and
will, and conscience, are too heavy for me to wield; would that I had
been created a worm, and no man, then, I should not have incurred the
hazards under which I have sinned and ruined myself."

The constitution of the human soul is indeed a wonderful one; and such a
meditation as that which we have just devoted to its functions of
self-examination and memory, brief though it be, is enough to convince us
of it. And remember, that this constitution is not peculiar to you and to
me. It belongs to every human creature on the globe. The imbruted pagan
in the fiery centre of Africa, who never saw a Bible, or heard of the
Redeemer; the equally imbruted man, woman, or child, who dwells in the
slime of our own civilization, not a mile from where we sit, and hear the
tidings of mercy; the filthy savage, and the yet filthier profligate, are
both of them alike with ourselves possessed of these awful powers of
self-knowledge and of memory.

Think of this, ye earnest and faithful laborers in the vineyard of the
Lord. There is not a child that you allure into your Sabbath Schools, and
your Mission Schools, that is not fearfully and wonderfully made; and
whose marvellous powers you are doing much to render to their possessor a
blessing, instead of a curse. When Sir Humphrey Davy, in answer to an
inquiry that had been made of him respecting the number and series of his
discoveries in chemistry, had gone through with the list, he added: "But
the greatest of my discoveries is Michael Faraday." This Michael Faraday
was a poor boy employed in the menial services of the laboratory where
Davy made those wonderful discoveries by which he revolutionized the
science of chemistry, and whose chemical genius he detected, elicited,
and encouraged, until he finally took the place of his teacher and
patron, and acquired a name that is now one of the influences of England.
Well might he say: "My greatest discovery was when I detected the
wonderful powers of Michael Faraday." And never will you make a greater
and more beneficent discovery, than when, under the thick scurf of
pauperism and vice, you detect the human soul that is fearfully and
wonderfully made; than when you elicit its powers of self-consciousness
and of memory, and, instrumentally, dedicate them to the service of
Christ and the Church.

2. In the second place, we see from the subject, that _thoughtlessness in
sin will never excuse sin_. There are degrees in sin. A deliberate,
self-conscious act of sin is the most intense form of moral evil. When a
man has an active conscience; when he distinctly thinks over the nature of
the transgression which he is tempted to commit; when he sees clearly
that it is a direct violation of a command of God which he is about to
engage in; when he says, "I know that this is positively forbidden
by my Maker and Judge, but I _will do it_,"--we have an instance of the
most heaven-daring sin. This is deliberate and wilful transgression. The
servant knows his lord's will and does it not, and he shall be beaten
with "many stripes," says Christ.

But, such sin as this is not the usual form. Most of human transgressions
are not accompanied with such a distinct apprehension, and such a
deliberate determination. The sin of ignorance and thoughtlessness is the
species which is most common. Men, generally, do not first think of what
they are about to do, and then proceed to do it; but they first proceed
to do it, and then think nothing at all about it. But, thoughtlessness
will not excuse sin; though, it is a somewhat less extreme form of it,
than deliberate transgression. Under the Levitical law, the sin of
ignorance, as it was called, was to be expiated by a somewhat different
sacrifice from that offered for the wilful and deliberate sin; but it
must be expiated. A victim must be offered for it. It was guilt before
God, and needed atonement. Our Lord, in His prayer for His murderers,
said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." The act of
crucifying the Lord of glory was certainly a sin, and one of an awful
nature. But the authors of it were not fully aware of its import. They
did not understand the dreadful significance of the crucifixion of the
Son of God, as we now understand it, in the light of eighteen centuries.
Our Lord alludes to this, as a species of mitigation; while yet He
teaches, by the very prayer which He puts up for them, that this
ignorance did not excuse His murderers. He asks that they may be
_forgiven_. But where there is absolutely no sin there is no need of
forgiveness. It is one of our Lord's assertions, that it will be more
tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment, than it will be
for those inhabitants of Palestine who would not hear the words of His
apostles,--because the sin of the former was less deliberate and wilful
than that of the latter. But He would not have us infer from this, that
Sodom and Gomorrah are not to be punished for sin. And, finally, He sums
up the whole doctrine upon this point, in the declaration, that "he who
knew his master's will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes;
but he who knew not his master's will and did it not shall be beaten with
few stripes." The sin of thoughtlessness shall be beaten with fewer
stripes than the sin of deliberation,--but it shall be _beaten_, and
therefore it is _sin_.

The almost universal indifference and thoughtlessness with which men live
on in a worldly and selfish life, will not excuse them in the day of
accurate accounts. And the reason is, that they are capable of _thinking_
upon the law of God; of _thinking_ upon their duties; of _thinking_ upon
their sins. They possess the wonderful faculties of self-inspection and
memory, and therefore they are capable of bringing their actions into
light. It is the command of God to every man, and to every rational
spirit everywhere, to walk in the light, and to be a child of the light.
We ought to examine ourselves; to understand our ruling motives and
abiding purposes; to scrutinize our feelings and conduct. But if we do
little or nothing of this, we must not expect that in the day of judgment
we can plead our thoughtless ignorance of what we were, and what we did,
here upon earth, as an excuse for our disobedience. God expects, and
demands, that every one of His rational creatures should be all that he
is capable of being. He gave man wonderful faculties and endowments,--ten
talents, five talents, two talents,--and He will require the whole
original sum given, together with a faithful use and improvement of it.
The very thoughtlessness then, particularly under the Gospel
dispensation,--the very neglect and non-use of the power of
self-inspection,--will go in to constitute a part of the sin that will be
punished. Instead of being an excuse, it will be an element of the
condemnation itself.

3. In the third place, even the sinner himself _ought to rejoice in the
fact that God is the Searcher of the heart_. It is instinctive and
natural, that a transgressor should attempt to conceal his character
from his Maker; but next to his sin itself, it would be the greatest
injury that he could do to himself, should he succeed in his attempt.
Even after the commission of sin, there is every reason for desiring that
God should compass our path and lying down, and be acquainted with all
our ways. For, He is the only being who can forgive sin; the only one who
can renew and sanctify the heart. There is the same motive for having the
disease of the soul understood by God, that there is for having the
disease of the body examined by a skilful physician. Nothing is gained,
but every thing is lost, by ignorance.

The sinner, therefore, has the strongest of motives for rejoicing in the
truth that God sees him. It ought not to be an unwelcome fact even to
him. For how can his sin be pardoned, unless it is clearly understood by
the pardoning power? How can his soul be purified from its inward
corruption, unless it is searched by the Spirit of all holiness?

Instead, therefore, of being repelled by such a solemn truth as that
which we have been discussing, even the natural man should be allured by
it. For it teaches him that there is help for him in God. His own
knowledge of his own heart, as we have seen, is very imperfect and very
inadequate. But the Divine knowledge is thoroughly adequate. He may,
therefore, devolve his case with confidence upon the unerring One. Let
him take words upon his lips, and cry unto Him: "Search me, O God, and
try me; and see what evil ways there are in me, and lead me in the way
everlasting." Let him endeavor to come into possession of the Divine
knowledge. There is no presumption in this. God desires that he should
know himself as He knows him; that he should get possession of His views
upon this point; that he should see himself as He sees him. One of the
principal sins which God has to charge upon the sinner is, that his
apprehensions respecting his own character are in conflict with the
Divine. Nothing would more certainly meet the approbation of God, than a
renunciation of human estimates of human nature, and the adoption of
those contained in the inspired word. Endeavor, therefore, to obtain the
very same knowledge of your heart which God Himself possesses. And in
this endeavor, He will assist you. The influences of the Holy Spirit to
enlighten are most positively promised and proffered. Therefore be not
repelled by the truth; but be drawn by it to a deeper, truer knowledge of
your heart. Lift up your soul in prayer, and beseech God to impart to you
a profound knowledge of yourself, and then to sprinkle all your
discovered guilt, and all your undiscovered guilt, with atoning blood.
This is _salvation_; first to know yourself, and then to know Christ as
your Prophet, Priest, and King.

[Footnote 1: PENSEES: Grandeur de l'homme, 6. Ed. Wetstein.]

[Footnote 2: CHAPMAN: Byron's Conspiracy.]


PSALM cxxxix. 1--6.--"O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou
knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising; thou understandest my thought
afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted
with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O Lord,
thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and
laid thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is
high, I cannot attain unto it."

In the preceding discourse upon this text, we directed attention to the
fact that man is possessed of the power of self-knowledge, and that he
cannot ultimately escape from using it. He cannot forever flee from his
own presence; he cannot, through all eternity, go away from his own
spirit. If he take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost
parts of the earth, he must, sooner or later, know himself, and acquit or
condemn himself.

Our attention was then directed to the fact, that God's knowledge of man
is certainly equal to man's knowledge of himself. No man knows more of
his own heart than the Searcher of hearts knows. Up to this point,
certainly, the truth of the text is incontrovertible. God knows all that
man knows.

II. We come now to the second position: That _God accurately and
exhaustively knows all that man might, but does not, know of himself_.

Although the Creator designed that every man should thoroughly understand
his own heart, and gave him the power of self-inspection that he might
use it faithfully, and apply it constantly, yet man is extremely ignorant
of himself. Mankind, says an old writer, are nowhere less at home, than
at home. Very few persons practise serious self-examination at all; and
none employ the power of self-inspection with that carefulness and
sedulity with which they ought. Hence men generally, and unrenewed men
always, are unacquainted with much that goes on within their own minds
and hearts. Though it is sin and self-will, though it is thought and
feeling and purpose and desire, that is going on and taking place during
all these years of religious indifference, yet the agent himself, so far
as a sober reflection upon the moral character of the process, and a
distinct perception of the dreadful issue of it, are concerned, is much
of the time as destitute of self-knowledge as an irrational brute itself.
For, were sinful men constantly self-examining, they would be constantly
in torment. Men can be happy in sin, only so long as they can sin without
thinking of it. The instant they begin to perceive and understand _what_
they are doing, they begin to feel the fang of the worm. If the frivolous
wicked world, which now takes so much pleasure in its wickedness, could
be forced to do here what it will be forced to do hereafter, namely, to
_eye_ its sin while it commits it, to _think_ of what it is doing while
it does it, the billows of the lake of fire would roll in upon time, and
from gay Paris and luxurious Vienna there would instantaneously ascend
the wailing cry of Pandemonium.

But it is not so at present. Men here upon earth are continually thinking
sinful thoughts and cherishing sinful feelings, and yet they are not
continually in hell. On the contrary, "they are not in trouble as other
men are, neither are they plagued like other men. Their eyes stand out
with fatness; they have more than heart could wish." This proves that
they are self-ignorant; that they know neither their sin nor its bitter
end. They sin without the _consciousness_ of sin, and hence are happy in
it. Is it not so in our own personal experience? Have there not been in the
past ten years of our own mental history long trains of thought,--sinful
thought,--and vast processions of feelings and imaginings,--sinful
feelings and imaginings,--that have trailed over the spaces of the soul,
but which have been as unwatched and unseen by the self-inspecting eye of
conscience, as the caravans of the African desert have been, during the
same period, by the eye of our sense? We have not felt a pang of guilt
every single time that we have thought a wrong thought; yet we should
have felt one inevitably, had we _scrutinized_ every such single thought.
Our face has not flushed with crimson in every particular instance in
which we have exercised a lustful emotion; yet it would have done so had
we carefully _noted_ every such emotion. A distinct self-knowledge has by
no means run parallel with all our sinful activity; has by no means been
co-extensive with it. We perform vastly more than we inspect. We have
sinned vastly more than we have been aware of at the time.

Even the Christian, in whom this unreflecting species of life and conduct
has given way, somewhat, to a thoughtful and vigilant life, knows and
acknowledges that perfection is not yet come. As he casts his eye over
even his regenerate and illuminated life, and sees what a small amount of
sin has been distinctly detected, keenly felt, and heartily confessed, in
comparison with that large amount of sin which he knows he must have
committed, during this long period of incessant action of mind, heart,
and limbs, he finds no repose for his misgivings with respect to the
filial examination and account, except by enveloping himself yet more
entirely in the ample folds of his Redeemer's righteousness; except by
hiding himself yet more profoundly in the cleft of that Rock of Ages
which protects the chief of sinners from the unsufferable splendors and
terrors of the Divine glory and holiness as it passes by. Even the
Christian knows that he must have committed many sins in thoughtless
moments and hours,--many sins of which he was not deliberately thinking
at the time of their commission,--and must pray with David, "Cleanse thou
me from secret faults." The functions and operations of memory evince
that such is the case. Are we not sometimes, in our serious hours when
memory is busy, convinced of sins which, at the time of their commission,
were wholly unaccompanied with a sense of their sinfulness? The act in
this instance was performed blindly, without self-inspection, and
therefore without self-conviction. Ten years, we will say, have
intervened,--years of new activity, and immensely varied experiences. And
now the magic power of recollection sets us back, once more, at that
point of responsible action, and bids do what we did not do at the
time,--analyze our performance and feel consciously guilty, experience the
first sensation of remorse, for what we did ten years ago. Have we not,
sometimes, been vividly reminded that upon such an occasion, and at such
a time, we were angry, or proud, but at the time when the emotion was
swelling our veins were not filled with, that clear and painful sense of
its turpitude which now attends the recollection of it? The re-exhibition
of an action in memory, as in a mirror, is often accompanied with a
distinct apprehension of its moral character that formed no part of the
experience of the agent while absorbed in the hot and hasty original
action itself. And when we remember how immense are the stores of memory,
and what an amount of sin has been committed in hours of thoughtlessness
and moral indifference, what prayer is more natural and warm than the
supplication: "Search me O God, and try me, and see what evil ways there
are within me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

But the careless, unenlightened man, as we have before remarked, leads a
life almost entirely destitute of self-inspection, and self-knowledge. He
sins constantly. He does only evil, and that continually, as did man
before the deluge. For he is constantly acting. A living self-moving
soul, like his, cannot cease action if it would. And yet the current is
all one way. Day after day sends up its clouds of sensual, worldly,
selfish thoughts. Week after week pours onward its stream of low-born,
corrupt, unspiritual feelings. Year after year accumulates that hardening
mass of carnal-mindedness, and distaste for religion, which is sometimes
a more insuperable obstacle to the truth, than positive faults and vices
which startle and shock the conscience. And yet the man _thinks_ nothing
about all this action of his mind and heart. He does not subject it to
any self-inspection. If he should, for but a single hour, be lifted up to
the eminence from which all this current of self-will, and moral agency,
may be seen and surveyed in its real character and significance, he would
start back as if brought to the brink of hell. But he is not thus lifted
up. He continues to use and abuse his mental and his moral faculties,
but, for most of his probation, with all the blindness and heedlessness
of a mere animal instinct.

There is, then, a vast amount of sin committed without self-inspection;
and, consequently, without any distinct perception, at the time, that it
is sin. The Christian will find himself feeling guilty, for the first
time, for a transgression that occurred far back in the past, and will
need a fresh application of atoning blood. The sinner will find, at some
period or other, that remorse is fastening its tooth in his conscience
for a vast amount of sinful thought, feeling, desire, and motive, that
took origin in the unembarrassed days of religious thoughtlessness and
worldly enjoyment.

For, think you that the insensible sinner is always to be thus
insensible,--that this power of self-inspection is eternally to "rust
unused?" What a tremendous revelation will one day be made to an
unreflecting transgressor, simply because he is a man and not a brute,
has lived a human life, and is endowed with the power of self-knowledge,
whether he has used it or not! What a terrific vision it will be for him,
when the limitless line of his sins which he has not yet distinctly
examined, and thought of, and repented of, shall be made to pass in slow
procession before that inward eye which he has wickedly kept shut so
long! Tell us not of the disclosures that shall be made when the sea
shall give up the dead that are in it, and the graves shall open and
surrender their dead; what are these material disclosures, when compared
with the revelations of self-knowledge! What is all this external
display, sombre and terrible as it will be to the outward eye, when
compared with all that internal revealing that will be made to a hitherto
thoughtless soul, when, of a sudden, in the day of judgment, its deepest
caverns shall heave in unison with the material convulsions of the day,
and shall send forth to judgment their long slumbering, and hidden
iniquity; when the sepulchres of its own memory shall burst open, and
give up the sin that has long lain buried there, in needless and guilty
forgetfulness, awaiting this second resurrection!

For (to come back to the unfolding of the subject, and the movement of
the argument), God perfectly knows all that man might, but does not, know
of himself. Though the transgressor is ignorant of much of his sin,
because at the time of its commission he sins blindly as well as
wilfully, and unreflectingly as well as freely; and though the
transgressor has forgotten much of that small amount of sin of which he
was conscious, and by which he was pained, at the time of its
perpetration; though on the side of man the powers of self-inspection and
memory have accomplished so little towards the preservation of man's sin,
yet God knows it all, and remembers it all. He compasseth man's path, and
his lying-down, and is acquainted with all his ways. "There is nothing
covered, therefore, that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall
not be known. Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the
light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be
proclaimed upon the house-tops." The Creator of the human mind has
control over its powers of self-inspection, and of memory; and when the
proper time comes He will compel these endowments to perform their
legitimate functions, and do their appointed work. The torturing
self-survey will begin, never more to end. The awful recollection will
commence, endlessly to go on.

One principal reason why the Biblical representations of human sinfulness
exert so little influence over men, and, generally speaking, seem to them
to be greatly exaggerated and untrue, lies in the fact that the Divine
knowledge of human character is in advance of the human knowledge. God's
consciousness and cognition upon this subject is exhaustive; while man's
self-knowledge is superficial and shallow. The two forms of knowledge,
consequently, when placed side by side, do not agree, but conflict. There
would be less difficulty, and less contradiction, if mankind generally
were possessed of even as much self-knowledge as the Christian is
possessed of. There would be no difficulty, and no contradiction, if the
knowledge of the judgment-day could be anticipated, and the
self-inspection of that occasion could commence here and now. But such is
not the fact. The Bible labors, therefore, under the difficulty of
possessing an advanced knowledge; the difficulty of being addressed to a
mind that is almost entirely unacquainted with the subject treated of.
The Word of God knows man exhaustively, as God knows him; and hence all
its descriptions of human character are founded upon such a knowledge.
But man, in his self-ignorance, does not perceive their awful truth. He
has not yet attained the internal correspondent to the Biblical
statement,--that apprehension of total depravity, that knowledge of the
plague of the heart, which always and ever says "yea" to the most vivid
description of human sinfulness, and "amen" to God's heaviest malediction
upon it. Nothing deprives the Word of its nerve and influence, more than
this general lack of self-inspection and self-knowledge. For, only that
which is perceived to be _true_ exerts an influence upon the human mind.
The doctrine of human sinfulness is preached to men, year after year, to
whom it does not come home with the demonstration of the Spirit and with
power, because the sinfulness which is really within them is as yet
unknown, and because not one of a thousand of their transgressions has
ever been scanned in the light of self-examination. But is the Bible
untrue, because the man is ignorant? Is the sun black, because the eye is

However ignorant man may be, and may desire and strive to be, of himself,
God knows him altogether, and knows that the representations of His word,
respecting the character and necessities of human nature, are the
unexaggerated, sober, and actual fact. Though most of the sinner's life
of alienation from God, and of disobedience, has been a blind and a
reckless agency, unaccompanied with self-scrutiny, and to a great extent
passed from his memory, yet it has all of it been looked at, as it
welled, up from the living centres of free agency and responsibility, by
the calm and dreadful eye of retributive Justice, and has all of it been
indelibly written down in the book of God's sure memory, with a pen of
iron, and the point of a diamond.

And here, let us for a moment look upon the bright, as well as the dark
side of this subject. For if God's exhaustive knowledge of the human
heart waken dread in one of its aspects, it starts infinite hope in
another. If that Being has gone down into these depths of human
depravity, and seen it with a more abhorring glance than could ever shoot
from a finite eye, and yet has returned with a cordial offer to forgive
it all, and a hearty proffer to cleanse it all away, then we can lift up
the eye in adoration and in hope. There has been an infinite forbearance
and condescension. The worst has been seen, and that too by the holiest
of Beings, and yet eternal glory is offered to us! God knows, from
personal examination, the worthlessness of human character, with a
thoroughness and intensity of knowledge of which man has no conception;
and yet, in the light of this knowledge, in the very flame of this
intuition, He has devised a plan of mercy and redemption. Do not think,
then, because of your present ignorance of your guilt and corruption,
that the incarnation and death of the Son of God was unnecessary, and
that that costly blood of atonement which you are treading under foot wet
the rocks of Calvary for a peccadillo. Could you, but for a moment only,
know yourself _altogether_ and _exhaustively_, as the Author of this
Redemption knows you, you would cry out, in the words of a far holier man
than you are, "I am undone." If you could but see guilt as God sees it,
you would also see with Him that nothing but an infinite Passion can
expiate it. If you could but fathom the human heart as God fathoms it,
you would know as He knows, that nothing less than regeneration can
purify its fountains of uncleanness, and cleanse it from its ingrain

Thus have we seen that God knows man altogether,--that He knows all that
man knows of himself, and all that man might but does not yet know of
himself. The Searcher of hearts knows all the thoughts that we have
thought upon, all the reflections that we have reflected upon, all the
experience that we have ourselves analyzed and inspected. And He also
knows that far larger part of our life which we have not yet subjected to
the scrutiny of self-examination,--all those thoughts, feelings, desires,
and motives, innumerable as they are, of which we took no heed at the
time of their origin and existence, and which we suppose, perhaps, we
shall hear no more of again. Whither then shall we go from God's spirit?
or whither shall we flee from His presence and His knowledge? If we
ascend up into heaven, He is there, and knows us perfectly. If we make
our bed in hell, behold He is there, and reads the secret thoughts and
feelings of our heart. The darkness hideth not from Him; our ignorance
does not affect His knowledge; the night shineth as the day; the darkness
and the light are both alike to Him.

This great truth which we have been considering obtains a yet more
serious emphasis, and a yet more solemn power over the mind, when we take
into view the _character_ of the Being who thus searches our hearts, and
is acquainted with all our ways. Who of us would not be filled with
uneasiness, if he knew that an imperfect fellow-creature were looking
constantly into his soul? Would not the flush of shame often burn upon
our cheek, if we knew that a sinful man like ourselves were watching all
the feelings and thoughts that are rising within us? Should we not be
more circumspect than we are, if men were able mutually to search each
other's hearts? How often does a man change his course of conduct, when
he discovers, accidentally, that his neighbor knows what he is doing.

But it is not an imperfect fellow-man, it is not a perfect angel, who
besets us behind and before, and is acquainted with, all our ways. It is
the immaculate God himself. It is He before whom archangels veil their
faces, and the burning seraphim cry, "Holy." It is He, in whose sight the
pure cerulean heavens are not clean, and whose eyes are a flame of fire
devouring all iniquity. We are beheld, in all this process of sin, be it
blind or be it intelligent, by infinite Purity. We are not, therefore, to
suppose that God contemplates this our life of sin with the dull
indifference of an Epicurean deity; that He looks into our souls, all
this while, from mere curiosity, and with no moral _emotion_ towards
us. The God who knows us altogether is the Holy One of Israel, whose
wrath is both real, and revealed, against all unrighteousness.

If, therefore, we connect the holy nature and pure essence of God with
all this unceasing and unerring inspection of the human soul, does not
the truth which, we have been considering speak with a bolder emphasis,
and acquire an additional power to impress and solemnize the mind? When
we realize that the Being who is watching us at every instant, and in
every act and element of our existence, is the very same Being who
revealed himself amidst the lightenings of Sinai as _hating_ sin and
not clearing the thoughtless guilty, do not our prospects at the bar of
justice look dark and fearful? For, who of the race of man is holy enough
to stand such an inspection? Who of the sons of men will prove pure in
such a furnace?

Are we not, then, brought by this truth close up to the central doctrine
of Christianity, and made to see our need of the atonement and
righteousness of the Redeemer? How can we endure such a scrutiny as God
is instituting into our character and conduct? What can we say, in the
day of reckoning, when the Searcher of hearts shall make known, to us all
that He knows of us? What can we do, in that day which shall reveal the
thoughts and the estimates of the Holy One respecting us?

It is perfectly plain, from the elevated central point of view where we
now stand, and in the focal light in which we now see, that no man can be
justified before God upon the ground of personal character; for that
character, when subjected to God's exhaustive scrutiny, withers and
shrinks away. A man may possibly be just before his neighbor, or his
friend, or society, or human laws, but he is miserably self-deceived who
supposes that his heart will appear righteous under such a scrutiny and
in such a Presence as we have been considering.[1] However it may be
before other tribunals, the apostle is correct when he asserts that
"every mouth, must be stopped, and the whole world plead guilty before
God." Before the Searcher of hearts, all mankind must appeal to mere and
sovereign mercy. Justice, in this reference, is out of the question.

Now, in this condition of things, God so loved the world that He gave His
only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but
have everlasting life. The Divine mercy has been manifested in a mode
that does not permit even the guiltiest to doubt its reality, its
sufficiency, or its sincerity. The argument is this. "If when, we were
yet sinners," _and known to be such, in the perfect and exhaustive manner
that has been described,_ "Christ died for us, much more, being now
justified by His blood, shall we be saved from Wrath through Him."
Appropriating this atonement which the Searcher of hearts has Himself
provided for this very exigency, and which He knows to be thoroughly
adequate, no man, however guilty, need fear the most complete disclosures
which the Divine Omniscience will have to make of human character in the
day of doom. If the guilt is "infinite upon infinite," so is the
sacrifice of the God-man. Who is he that condemmeth? it is the Son of God
that died for sin. Who shall lay anything to God's elect? it is God that
justifieth. And as God shall, in the last day, summon up from the deep
places of our souls all of our sins, and bring us to a strict account for
everything, even to the idle words that we have spoken, we can look Him
full in the eye, without a thought of fear, and with love unutterable, if
we are really relying upon the atoning sacrifice of Christ for
justification. Even in that awful Presence, and under that Omniscient
scrutiny, "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."

The great lesson, then, taught by the text and its unfolding, is _the
importance of attaining self-knowledge here upon earth, and while there
remaineth a sacrifice for sins_. The duty and wisdom of every man is, to
anticipate the revelations of the judgment day; to find out the sin of
his soul, while it is an accepted time and a day of salvation. For we
have seen that this self-inspection cannot ultimately be escaped. Man was
made to know himself, and he must sooner or later come to it.
Self-knowledge is as certain, in the end, as death. The utmost that can
be done, is to postpone it for a few days, or years. The article of death
and the exchange of worlds will pour it all in, like a deluge, upon every
man, whether he will or not. And he who does not wake up to a knowledge
of his heart, until he enters eternity, wakes up not to pardon but to

The simple question, then, which, meets us is: Wilt thou know thyself
_here_ and _now_, that thou mayest accept and feel God's pity in Christ's
blood, or wilt thou keep within the screen, and not know thyself until
beyond the grave, and then feel God's judicial wrath? The self-knowledge,
remember, must come in the one way or the other. It is a simple question
of time; a simple question whether it shall come here in this world,
where the blood of Christ "freely flows," or in the future world, where
"there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin." Turn the matter as we will,
this is the sum and substance,--a sinful man must either come to a
thorough self-knowledge, with a hearty repentance and a joyful pardon, in
this life; or he must come to a thorough, self-knowledge, with a total
despair and an eternal damnation, in the other. God is not mocked. God's
great pity in the blood of Christ must not be trifled with. He who
refuses, or neglects, to institute that self-examination which leads to
the sense of sin, and the felt need of Christ's work, by this very fact
proves that he does not desire to know his own heart, and that he has no
wish to repent of sin. But he who will not even look at his sin,--what
does not he deserve from that Being who poured out His own blood for it?
He who refuses even to open his eyes upon that bleeding Lamb of
God,--what must not he expect from the Lion of the tribe of Judah, in the
day of judgment? He who by a life of apathy, and indifference to sin,
puts himself out of all relations to the Divine pity,--what must he
experience in eternity, but the operations of stark, unmitigated law?

Find out your sin, then. God will forgive all that is found. Though your
sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. The great God
delights to forgive, and is waiting to forgive. But, _sin must be seen by
the sinner, before it can be pardoned by the Judge_. If you refuse at
this point; if you hide yourself from yourself; if you preclude all
feeling and conviction upon the subject of sin, by remaining ignorant of
it; if you continue to live an easy, thoughtless life in sin, then you
_cannot_ be forgiven, and the measure of God's love with which He would
have blessed you, had you searched yourself and repented, will be the
measure of God's righteous wrath with which He will search you, and
condemn you, because you have not.

[Footnote 1: "It is easy,"--says one of the keenest and most incisive of
theologians,--"for any one in the cloisters of the schools to indulge
himself in idle speculations on the merit of works to justify men; but
when he comes _into the presence of God_, he must bid farewell to these
amusements, for there the business is transacted with seriousness. To
this point must our attention be directed, if we wish to make any useful
inquiry concerning true righteousness: How we can answer the _celestial
Judge_ when He shall call us to an account? Let us place that Judge
before our eyes, not according to the inadequate imaginations of our
minds, but according to the descriptions given of him in the Scriptures,
which represent him as one whose refulgence eclipses the stars, whose
purity makes all things appear polluted, and who searches the inmost soul

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