The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place.The Speech of Elihu.
Elihu says many beautiful things. There is some difficulty in tracing the uniting line of his numerous remarks, but the remarks themselves often glitter with a really beautiful light. Many of the independent sayings are like single jewels. We need not always look for the thread upon which the pearls are strung: sometimes it is enough to see the separate pearls themselves, to admire, to value, and spiritually to appropriate all their helpful suggestion. Elihu's speech is like many a sermon: we may not be able to follow it in its continuity, and indeed in some instances, continuity may not be a feature of the discourse; yet what riches are found in separate sentences, in asides, in allusions whose meaning is not at first patent, but which grows as we peruse the words and consider the argument. We may know nothing of the discourse as a whole, and yet we may remember short sentences, brief references, and take them away as lights that will bless us in many a dark hour, or as birds that may sing to us when all human voices are silent.
Elihu says beautiful things about God, as we have already seen. He loved God. Was he sometimes too eager to defend God? Is it not possible for us to excite ourselves much too hotly in defending the eternal Name and in protecting the everlasting sanctuary? Who has called us to all this controversy, to all this angry hostility even against the foe? What if it had been more profitable to all if we had prayed with him instead of arguing; yea, even prayed for him in his absence; yea, higher miracle still—prayed for him despite his sneering and bis mocking. Elihu may have been too vehement, too anxious to defend God, as if God needed him. And yet that can hardly have been his spirit, for one of the very first things to which we shall now call attention shows Elihu's conception of God to be one of absolute independence of his creature's. Let us see whether Elihu was right or wrong in this conception.
"If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?" (Job 35:6-7).
This is true of God's majesty, but it is not true of God's fatherhood. God can do without any one of us, and yet his heart yearns if the very youngest of us be not at home, sitting at the table, and living on the bounty of his love. It is perfectly right to say what Elihu said: "If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him?" O thou puny transgressor, thou dost but bruise thine own hand when thou smitest against the rocks of eternity! "Or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him?" Can thy sin tarnish his crown, or take away one jewel from his diadem, or abate the storm of heaven's music that hails him eternal King? Consider, poor suffering patriarch: if thou be righteous even, on the other hand, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand? And yet that statement is imperfect: it creates a chasm between the Creator and the creature; it sets God away at a great distance upon an inaccessible mountain, and clothes him with glories which dazzle the vision that would look upon them. From one side of the thought, it is good, it is glorious, but from the other side of the thought it is incomplete. Elihu speaks of the dazzling sun, but does he not forget to speak of the tender light that kisses every pane even in a poor man's window, and comes with God's benediction upon every flower planted by a child's hand, and watched by a child's love? We must not make God too imperious. There is a conception of God which represents him as keeping men at the staff-end, allowing them to approach so far but not one step beyond. That conception could be vindicated up to a given point, but there is the larger conception which says: We have boldness of access now; we have not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire; we have come unto mount Sion, where with reverent familiarity we may look face to face upon God, and speak to him, as a man speaketh with his friend, mouth to mouth, and return to our daily employment with the fragrance of heaven in our very breath, and with the almightiness of God as the fountain of our strength. This is the larger view. In all cases the larger view is the right view. He who has but a geographical view of the earth knows but little concerning it; as we have often had occasion to point out, the astronomical view involves the whole, and rules by infinite energy all that is apparently unequal and discrepant into serenest peace, into completest order. It is possible for us to be afraid of God: hence many minds would banish the thought of the divine love, saying, It is too high for us: no man may think of that and live: enough for us to deal with minor things: inferior concerns may well task our finite powers: we dare not lift up our eyes unto heaven: God is great, and may not be looked for. There was a time when that view might be historically correct, but Jesus Christ has come to present another aspect of God, to reveal him as Father, to declare his nearness, to preach his solicitude for the children of men, to describe him as so loving the world as to die for it. Let us repeat: that is the larger view, and until we have received it, we know nothing of what riches may be gathered in the sanctuary, and what triumphs may be won by the spirit of the Cross.
Elihu presents the same thought in another aspect; he says that man may do many things against God, and yet not injure him. That is not true. Here is opened to us a wild field of practical reflection. We cannot injure God without injuring ourselves. If we transgress against him, what does it amount to? Some may say, Who can blacken God's whole universe by any sin he may commit? What can Iscariot himself do when he attempts to stain the infinite snow of the divine purity? There is also a sense in which that is true. God is not dependent upon us: our prayers do not make him what he is; our sacrifices do not constitute his heaven: he could do without every one of us; he could pay no heed to any action committed by any hand. But this is not the God of the Bible. Such a God is possible to the licentious imagination, but not possible to any one who has been trained in the Christian school, or who accepts Christian standards for the regulation of his thought, for the determination of his theology. We cannot omit a duty without grieving God; we cannot think an evil thought without troubling his heavens. He is concerned for us. Whilst we say we live, and move, and have our being in God, there is an obvious sense in which he may reply—I live, and move, and have my being in man. He watches for us, longs for us, sends messages to us, seems to spend his eternity in thinking about us, and planning our whole life, and enriching us in all the regions and departments of our existence and nature. That is the Christian view. Never let the idea get into your mind that God cannot be interested in the individual man. Once let that conviction seize the mind, and despair quickly follows: you have not adopted a sentiment; you have given it the key of your heart; the enemy has seized it, and he says, Let that thought work a long while—namely, that God does not care for the individual, that his universe is too large for him to pay any attention to details,—and when that thought has well saturated the mind, I will go in and work all the mystery of damnation. We shall keep the enemy at bay, we shall affright him, in proportion as we are found standing hand in hand with God, saying loudly and sweetly, He is my God, and will not forsake me: he loves me as if I were an only child; he has been pleased to make me essential to the completeness of his joy. Words must fail when attempting to depict such a thought, but they help us, as a hint may help a man who is in difficulty. Beyond this we must not force words. If they bring us to feel that God numbers the hairs of our head, watches the falling sparrow, takes note of everything, is interested in our pulse that throbs within us, it is helpful, restful; meanwhile it is sufficient: preparation has been made for larger gifts, for fuller disclosures of divine decree and purpose.
Elihu has not been altogether poetical in his speech to Job: but we incidentally come upon an expression which proves that Elihu even could be poet as well as critic and accuser; he says—
"But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?" (Job 35:10.)
Whatever may be the exact critical definition of the phrase, who can fail to receive it as throwing an explanatory lustre upon many a human experience? Consider the words in their relation to one another. First look at them separately—"songs"; then look at the next word, "night"; now connect them, "songs in the night,"—apparently songs out of place, songs out of season, songs that have gone astray, angels that have lost their foothold in heaven and have fallen down into wildernesses and valleys of darkness. Such is not the case. "Song" and "night" are words which seem to have no reciprocal relation: but human experience is larger than human definitions, and it is true to the experience of mankind that whilst there has been a night the night has been made alive with music. Who will deny this? No man who has had experience of life; only he will deny it who has seen life in one aspect, and who has seen so little of life as really to have seen none of it. Life is not a flash, a transient phase, a cloud that comes and goes without leaving any impression behind it: life is a tragedy; life is a long, complicated, changeful experience,—now joyous to ecstasy, now sad to despair; now a great harvest-field rich with the gold of wheat, and now a great sandy desert in which no flower can be found. Taking life through and through, in all its relations and inter-relations, how many men can testify that in the night they have heard sweeter music than they ever heard in the day! Do not the surroundings sometimes help the music? Some music is out of place at midday; we must wait for the quiet wood, for the heart of the deep plantation, for the top of the silent hill, for the place where there is no city: some music must come to the heart in solitude—a weird, mystic, tender thing, frightful sometimes as a ghost, yet familiar oftentimes as a friend. Who has not seen more of God at the graveside than he ever saw elsewhere? Who has not had Scripture interpreted to him in the house of death which was never interpreted to him by eloquent Apollos or by reasoning Paul? and who has not had occasion to go back upon his life, and say, It was good for me that I was afflicted: now that I have had time to reflect, I see that all the while God was working for me, secretly, beneficently, and the result is morning, beauty, promise, early summer, almost heaven! But here we must interpose a word of wise caution. Do not let us expect songs in the night if we had not duty and sacrifice in the daytime. God does not throw songs away. God does not expend upon us what we ourselves have not been prepared to receive by industry, by patient suffering, by all-hopeful endurance: never does God withhold the song in the night time when the day has been devoted to him. The darkness and the light are both alike to him. If we sow tares in one part of the day, we shall reap them in the other part. Sometimes the relation is reversed: one great, sweet, solemn voice has said, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning": there we seem to have the words set in right sequence—weeping and night; joy and morning. What a balance of expression! How exquisite in criticism and appropriateness! and yet Elihu will have it the other way:—difficulty in the daytime, songs in the night; a day of long labour and sore travail, but at night every star a gospel, and the whole arch of heaven a protection and a security. This may be poetry to some, it is solemn fact to others. Poetry is the fact. Poetry is truth blossoming,—fact budding into broader and more generous life.
Then Elihu presents another feature of the divine character, which is full of delightful suggestion—
"Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom" (Job 36:5).
Consider here the relation of terms: mighty, yet not contemptuous. This gives us the right interpretation of the very first passage which we quoted. God is mighty, yet condescending; God could crush us, yet he spares our life: because he is supremely mighty he is compassionate. Half-power is dangerous, almost mighty tempts the half-developed giant to tyrannous uses of his strength: but whole power, almightiness, omnipotence, by its very perfectness, can speak, can compassionate, can fall into the words of pity and solicitude and love. Thus justice becomes mercy; thus righteousness and peace have kissed each other; thought to be strangers, they have hailed one another as friends and brethren. Then the very omnipotence of God may be regarded as a gospel feature and as a gospel support. If he were less powerful he would be less pitiful. It is because he knows all that strength can do that he knows how little it can do Strength will never convert the world, omnipotence will never subdue creation, in the sense of exciting that creation to trust and worship, honour and love. What will overcome the universe of sin? Divine condescension, divine compassion,—the cross of Christ. When are men ruled? When they are persuaded. When are men made loyal subjects? When they are fascinated by the king's beauty, and delighted with the king's compassion, clemency, and grace. For what king will man die? For the king who rules by righteousness and who is the subject of his own people. Thus God will not drive us into his kingdom. God spreads the feast and gives us welcome; he declares gospels, he offers hospitality: "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely;" and again, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in." So says he who by a breath could obliterate the universe. He will rule by love; he will take up his abode where he is welcomed by the broken heart and the contrite spirit.
A sweet word Elihu uses again; he speaks of "the bright light which is in the clouds" (Job 37:21). This is a sentence we have to stand side by side with "songs in the night." Astronomical meanings there may be, literal criticism may take out of expressions of this kind all that is nourishing to the soul and all that is comforting to the troubled spirit; yet there the juice of the divine grace remains, the sap of the holy virtue is found, and may be received and appropriated by hearts that are in a fit condition. Astronomy shall not have all the grandeur and all the suggestion; the heart will have some of it. The heart says, The universe was made for man, not man for the universe, and man has a right to take his sickle into every field, and reap the bread which he finds growing there, for wherever there is bread it was meant for the satisfaction of hunger. "Men see not the bright light which is in the clouds,"—the silver lining, the edge of glory. We ought to reckon up our mercies as well as talk of our judgments: "My song shall be of mercy and judgment"—a complete song, a psalm wanting in no feature of sublimity and tenderness Suppose we sometimes reverse the usual process, and instead of writing down the name of the cloud and its size and density, we should take our pen and with a glad swift eagerness write down the lines we have seen, the sudden gleamings, the bright visions, the angel-forms, the messages of love, the compensations, the advantages of life. That would be but grateful; that would be but just. Is there any life that has not some brightness in it? How true it is that though in some cases the light is all gone, yet, even amongst little outcast children, see what laughter there is, what sunniness, what glee! Who has not seen this on the city streets? Looking at the little wayfarers we should say, There can be no happiness in such lives; such little ones can never know what it is to laugh; and lo, whilst we are musing and moralising, how they lilt and sing and show signs of inextinguishable gladness. This is the mystery of life. It always has with it some touch of heaven, some throb of immortality, some sign of all-conquering force. Here it is that the gospel will get its hold upon men. Begin with the joys they have, carry them forward with due amplification, and purify them until they turn into a reasonable and religious gladness. Seize the facts of life, and reason from them up into pious generalisations, rational religious conclusions, and force men by the very strenuousness of your argument to see that they have had seeds enough, but have never planted them; otherwise even their lives would have been blooming, blossoming, fruitful as the garden of God.
Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict.The Known and the Unknown
It is well that there should be an immeasurable and unknown quantity in life and in creation. Even the Unknown has its purposes to serve: rightly received, it will heighten veneration; it will reprove unholy ambition; it will teach man somewhat of what he is, of what he can do and can not do, and therefore may save him from the wasteful expenditure of a good deal of energy.
"Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out." All space leads up to the Infinite. There comes a time when men can measure no longer; they throw down their instrument, and say, This is useless: we are but adding cipher to cipher, and we can proceed no further: Space has run up into Infinity, and infinity cannot be measured. Nearly all the words, the greater words, that we use in our thinking and converse, run up into religious greatness. Take the word Time. We reckon time in minutes and hours, in days and weeks and months and years and centuries, and we have gone so far as to speak of millenniums; but we soon tire; arithmetic can only help us to a certain point. Here again we draw up the measuring line or calculating standard, and we say, It is useless, for Time has passed into Eternity. These are facts in philosophy and in science, in nature and in experience,—Space rising into Infinity; Time ascending into Eternity: the foot of the ladder is upon earth, but the head of the ladder is lost in infinite distance. Take the word Love. To what uses we put it! We call it by tuneful names. it charms us, it dissipates our solitude, it creates for us companionship, interchange of thought, reciprocation of trust, so that one life helps another, completing it in a thousand ways, great or small. But there comes a point even in love where contemplation can go no further; there it rests—yea, there it expires, for Love has passed into Sacrifice; it has gone up by way of the Cross. Always in some minor degree there has been a touch of sacrifice in every form of love, but all these minor ways have culminated in the last tragedy, the final crucifixion, and Love has died for its object. So Space has gone into Infinity, Time into Eternity, Love into Sacrifice. Now take the word Man. Does it terminate in itself—is the term Man all we know of being? We have spoken of spirit, angel, archangel; rationally or poetically or by inspiration, we have thought of seraphim and cherubim, mighty winged ones, who burn and sing before the eternal throne, and still we have felt that there was something remaining beyond, and man is ennobled, glorified, until he passes into the completing term—God. They, therefore, are superficial and foolish who speak of Space, Time, Love, Man, as if these were self-completing terms: they are but the beginnings of the real thought, little vanishing signs, disappearing when the real thing signified comes into view, falling before it into harmonious and acceptable preparation and homage. So then, Faith may be but the next thing after Reason. It may be difficult to distinguish sometimes as to where Reason stops and Faith begins: but Faith has risen before it, round about it; Faith is indebted to Reason; without reason there could have been no faith. Why not, therefore, put Reason down amongst the terms, and so complete for the present our category, and say, Space, Time, Love, Man, Reason—for there comes a point in the ascent of Reason where Reason itself tires, and says, May I have wings now? I can walk no longer, I can run no more; and yet how much there is to be conquered, compassed, seized, and enjoyed! and when Reason so prays, what if Reason be transfigured into Faith, and if we almost see the holy image rising to become more like the Creator, and to dwell more closely and lovingly in his presence? All the great religious terms, then, have what may be called roots upon the earth, the sublime words from which men often fall back in almost ignorant homage amounting to superstition. Begin upon the earth; begin amongst ourselves; take up our words and show their real meaning, and give a hint of their final issue. He who lives so, will have no want of companionship; the mind that finds in all these human, social words, alphabetical signs of great religious quantities and thoughts, will have riches unsearchable, an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Why dwarf our words? Why deplete them of their richer and more vital meanings? Why not rather follow them in an ascending course, and rejoice in their expansion, and in their riches? The religious teacher is called upon to operate in this direction, so far as he can influence the minds of his hearers; it is not his to take out of words all their best significations, but rather to charge every human term with some greater thought, to find in every word a seed, in every seed a harvest, it may be of wheat, it may be of ether food, but always meant for the satisfaction and strengthening of our noblest nature.
Our relation, then, to God is strikingly set forth by this speech of Elihu. "We cannot find him out." It is something to know when the word "cannot" is to be introduced into human speech. That also is a most useful word. It chafes us; we feel that it encages our life: but why need it do so? There is a way of accepting even a "cannot" that shall ennoble our best thinking, that shall chasten all our feeling and passion, and shall excite in us hopes not now to be realised, because the space is too small, and the time too short, and the hour of liberation has not yet come. It is something to know where we have to stop for the moment; time is saved, moral disappointment is avoided, energy is turned upon real practical immediate duty, so that instead of spending life in vain aspiration we spend it in beneficent service, not the less beneficent and large because it is animated by a sure hope and confidence that by-and-by even the horizon shall recede, even heaven shall be heightened, and all we know now of time and space shall be completed in eternity and in infinity. What we do know of God in the first instance, we know as Elihu knew it, through nature, experience, history. We cannot consent that these terms shall be limited by themselves as narrowly interpreted: they shall stand for greater quantities; even such words shall be as little gates opening upon infinite spaces. We may know a good deal by looking at what are called phenomena. Even phenomena are not intended to be self-terminating; they are meant to be suggestive, indicative, significant; rightly accepted, they lure us to further distances, and promise us great results to our religious attention. Take a house, and let me describe it to you with a view of your telling me what the builder or tenant or owner must be. The house is commodious, built of polished stone, enriched here and there and in many places with marble of the finest quality, on which has been expended the most minute and skilful workmanship: the garden is large, filled with choicest plants and flowers, and things of beauty: now and again I hear from the open windows strains of music and gladness and sacred festivity; all the tones are solemn, majestic; now and then indeed I hear sounds of children's voices, but all blend so as to impress me with a sense of sacredness or solemnity: equipages are coming, going, and great men descend and return; and behold, oftentimes through the gilded gates I see poor people going away with bread, and with signs of beneficent attention. Who lives there? I do not know; I never saw the tenant. Tell me what he must be. Who can hesitate? Though you never saw the tenant of that mansion you know a good deal about him, from what you have seen of what are called phenomena, or appearances, or outside hints. Who, passing the house, would hesitate to say, A rich man lives there; a good man has his home in that house; there you have abundance of wealth, there you have a domestic economy that results in harmony and gladness; there you have a beneficent ruler, one who cares for the poor and the sick and the helpless? Did you ever see him? No. Do you know his name? No. Then how can you predicate such things about him? Because of what we see; all these things, of course, are external, and, therefore, we are not at liberty to attach to them greater significance than belongs to appearances, so-called facts, or events; yet we cannot look upon these facts, events, occurrences, be they what they may, without feeling that no small creature lives there, no man of limited ideas, but a man who would make others as happy as himself, a man of resources, who enriches himself by enriching others. The reasoning would not be unsound; it would rather seem to be supported by facts. The man who took that view of the house might be a rationalist, and yet have no occasion to be ashamed of the designation. Let us "stand still," as Elihu said in another passage, "and consider the wondrous works of God," and say from the contemplation of those works, even so far as they are known to us, what God must be, or the works could not be what they are. Verily, the house is large: who can touch the roof, so blue, sun-lighted, star-panelled? Truly the garden is ample, beauteous, fragrant; all the world seems to want to be a garden; the flowers would grow if we would allow them to do so; the music—thunder, tempest, storm, strong wind, gentle breeze, purling brook, roaring, dashing cataract—a wondrous combination of sounds! And happiness? Verily, there is a great deal of sunshine even amongst men and women and children; yea, merriment and dancing and laughter and gleeful singing. Who made this? I do not know. Who owns it? I cannot tell. What do you think of the architect? I think he must be great, wise, good. Then, say you, if you were to be told that his name is "Father," would you believe it? At once: you have made a revelation to me; that is the word: I will go round the whole place again, and confirm your accuracy by the facts which are patent to my observation. Then, looking again at the high heaven, at the radiant horizon, at the green earth, at the abundant summer, at the hospitable autumn, I return and say, You have given the right name: whoever he is, "Father" is a word that suits the circumstances! let us keep to that. Then you continue, Were you to be told that you should pray, "Our Father which art in heaven," would you? Instantly; reason would say so: I could defend myself by facts; I should feel that I was standing upon a pedestal of rock, lifted up so high that I could all but touch the great holy mystery. Thus the Christian thinks he has solid standing-ground; he has not given up reason and handed it over to those who call themselves rationalists; if any man would take away reason from the Church he would stop him and say, That is one of the golden goblets of the sanctuary; it must not be stolen; it is God's property and must be left in his sanctuary. Who, then, would hesitate, judging by the mere phenomena or circumstances, to describe God as great, wise good?
"He is excellent... in judgment." Is there any judgment displayed in the distribution of things? Is the globe ill-made? Are all things in chaos? Is there anywhere the sign of a plummet-line, a measuring-tape? Are things apportioned as if by a wise administrator? How do things fit one another? Who has hesitated to say that the economy of nature, so far as we know it, is a wondrous economy? Explain it as men may, we all come to a common conclusion, that there is a marvellous fitness of things, a subtle relation and inter-relation, a harmony quite musical, an adaptation which though it could never have been invented by our reason, instantly secures the sanction of our understanding as being good, fit, and wholly wise.
"And in plenty of justice." Now Elihu touches the moral chord. It is most noticeable that throughout the whole of the Bible the highest revelations are sustained by the strongest moral appeals. If the Bible dealt only in ecstatic contemplations, in religious musings, in poetical romances, we might rank it with other sacred books, and pay it such tribute as might be due to fine literary inventiveness and expression; but whatever there may be in the Bible supernatural, transcendental, mysterious, there is also judgment, right, justice: everywhere evil is burned with unquenchable fire, and right is commended and honoured as being of the quality of God. The moral discipline of Christianity sustains its highest imaginings. Let there be no divorce between what is spiritual in Christianity and what is ethical,—between the revelation sublime and the justice concrete, social, as between man and man; let the student keep within his purview all the parts and elements of this intricate revelation, and then let him say how the one balances the other, and what co-operation and harmony result from the inter-relation of metaphysics, spiritual revelations, high imaginings, and simple duty, personal sacrifice, industry as of stewardship, of trusteeship. This is the view which Elihu takes. God to him was "excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice."
"He will not afflict." A curious expression this, and differently rendered. Some render it, He will not answer: or, He will not be called upon to answer for his ways: he will give an account of himself to none; there is a point beyond which he will not permit approach. Yet the words as they stand in the Authorised Version are supported by many collateral passages, and therefore may be taken as literal in this instance. He will not willingly afflict: he is no tyrant; he is not a despot who drinks the wine of blood, and thrives on the miseries of his creation: when he chastens it is that he may purify and ennoble the character, and bring before the vision of man lights and promises which otherwise would escape his attention. Affliction as administered by God is good; sorrow has its refining and enriching uses. The children of God are indeed bowed down, sorely chastened, visited by disappointments; oftentimes they lay their weary heads upon pillows of thorns. Nowhere is that denied in the Bible; everywhere is it patent in our own open history; and yet Christianity has so wrought within us, as to its very spirit and purpose, that we can accept affliction as a veiled angel, and sorrow as one of God's night-angels, coming to us in cloud and gloom, and yet in the darkest sevenfold midnight of loneliness whispering to us gospel words, and singing to us in tender minor tones as no other voice ever sang to the orphaned heart. Christians can say this; Christians do say this. They say it not the less distinctly because there are men who mock them. They must take one of two courses: they must follow out their own impressions and realisations of spiritual ministry within the heart; or they must, forsooth, listen to men who do not know them, and allow their piety to be sneered away, and their deepest spiritual realisations to be mocked out of them or carried away by some wind of fool's laughter. They have made up their minds to be more rational; they have resolved to construe the events of their own experience and to accept the sacred conclusion, and that conclusion is that God does not willingly afflict the children of men, that the rod is in a Father's hand, that no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it worketh out the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Believe me, they are not to be laughed out of that position. They are reasonable men, men of great sagacity, men of affairs, men who can deal with questions of state and empire; and they, coming into the sanctuary—the inmost, sacred sanctuary—are not ashamed to pray. This is the strength of Christian faith. When the Christian is ashamed of his Lord, the argument for Christianity is practically, and temporarily at least, dead. Why do we not speak more distinctly as to the results of our own observation and experience? Great abstract truths admit of being accented by personal testimony. "Come and hear, all ye that fear God," said one, "and I will declare what he hath done for my soul." If a witness will confine himself to what he himself has known, felt and handled of the word of life, then in order to destroy the argument you must first destroy his character.
So, then, we are agnostics—"touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out." But we are agnostics only because of our limitation. We are agnostics about all things beyond a given point. Even philosophers say that they are agnostics as regards the inner elements and qualities of matter itself. So let it be. But being agnostics in that sense and under that definition, we are not prevented from following the instinct of life, and inquiring into Scriptural revelation through the medium of its moral discipline; and so inquiring, we have come to the conclusion that God is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him; that God is Creator, King, Ruler, Father, Redeemer, and that at the last good will triumph over evil, and the Redeemer shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. Ask us to prove these things in words, and you ask us to do what cannot be done by such feeble instruments; but beyond words, and deeper than words, are holy instinct, spiritual convictions, absolute confidence in the processes and ministries of things which will abide when the mocker is tired of sneering, and when the interrogator is wearied with the monotony of his own questioning. Let us lovingly, steadfastly, through the eternal Son of God, worship and trust him, who has been pleased to make himself known to us by the gracious and tender name of Father.