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knowledge is the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master. And similarly science emphasizes that the chief end of all knowledge is that we should know the environment to which we are to conform. Knowledge is useful to strengthen and clarify the mind, that it may see and conform to truth and God: and if it fails to become a means to conformity, it has failed of the chief, and practically the only, end for which it was intended. We are to come "in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." But knowledge which only puffs up and distracts the mind from the great aims and ends which it should serve is rebuked with equal emphasis by the Bible and by science.
I would not claim that we have set too high a value upon knowledge, perhaps we cannot; but there is something far higher on which we are inclined to set far too low a value. This is righteousness and love; and true wisdom is knowledge permeated, vivified, and transfigured by devotion to these higher ends. And in this highest realm of the mind feeling and will rule conjointly. Love is a feeling which always will and must find its way to activity through the will, and it is an activity of the will roused by the very deepest feeling, inspired by a worthy object. If you try to divorce them, both die. Hence Paul can say, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing." And John goes, if possible, even farther and says, "Every one that loveth is born of
God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love." And this sort of love bears and believes and hopes and endures, and never fails. And for this reason the Bible lays such tremendous emphasis on the heart, not as the centre of emotion alone, but as the seat of will as well. And science points to the same end, though she sees it afar off.
And what of God? God is a Spirit, Creator, Author, and Finisher of all things, and filling all. But while omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, these are not the characteristics emphasized in the Bible. He is righteous. "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" is the grand question of the father of the faithful. And when Moses prays God to show him his glory, God answers, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee." He is the "refuge of Israel," the "everlasting arms" underneath them, pitying them "as a father pitieth his children." And in the New Testament we are bidden to pray to our Father, who is love, and whose temple is the heart of whosoever will receive him. Truly a very personal being.
Now the Bible rises here indefinitely above anything that mere natural science can describe. But can the ultimate "Power, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness" and unselfishness, of whose presence in environment science assures us, be ever better described than by these words concerning the "Father of our spirits?"
And an infinitely wise, good, and loving being will have fixed modes of working; for "with him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Thus only can man trust and know him. The old Stoic philosopher tells us "everything has two handles, and can be
carried by one of them, but not by the other." So with God's laws. Many seem to look upon them as a hindrance and limitation to him in carrying out his righteous and loving will toward man. But they are really the modes or means of his working, which he uses with such regularity and consistency that we can always rely upon them and him. The pure river of the water of life proceedeth from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
If I am lying ill waiting anxiously for the physician I can think of this great city as a mass of blocks of houses separating him from me. But the houses have been arranged in blocks so as to leave free streets, along which he can travel the more quickly. And God's laws are not blocks, but thoroughfares, planned that the angels of his mercy may fly swiftly to our aid. We are prone to forget that these laws are expressly made for your and my benefit, as well as that of all beings, that we may be righteous and unselfish. And this is one ground of the apostle's faith that "all things work together for good to them that love God." And in the Apocalypse the earth helps the woman. It must be so.
But what if you or I try to block the thoroughfare? What would happen to us if we tried to stop barehanded the current of a huge dynamo, or to hold back the torrent of Niagara? Nothing but death can result. And what if I stem myself against the "river of the water of life, proceeding from the throne of God," and try to turn it aside or hold it back from men perishing of thirst? And that is just what sin is, even if done carelessly or thoughtlessly; for men have no right to be careless and thoughtless about
some things. "The wages of sin is death;" physical death for breaking physical law, and spiritual death for breaking spiritual law. How can it be otherwise? The wages are fairly earned. The hardest doctrine for a scientific man to believe is that there can be any forgiveness of such sin as the heedless, ungrateful breaking of such wise and beneficent laws of a loving Father. And yet my earthly father has had to forgive me a host of times during my boyhood. Perhaps I can hope the same from God; I take his word for it.
But if you or I think that it is safe to trifle with God's laws, we are terribly mistaken. The Lord proclaimed himself to Moses as "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." But someone will say, This is terrible. It is terrible; but the question is, Does the Bible speak the truth about nature? Is nature a "fairy godmother," or does she bring men up with sternness and inflict suffering upon the innocent children, if necessary, lest they copy after their sinful parents? Do the children of the defaulter and drunkard and debauchee suffer because of the sins of their father, or do they not? If the blessings won by parental virtue go down to the thousandth generation, must not the evil consequences of sin go down to the third or fourth?
That we are not under the law, but under grace,
does not mean, as some seem to think, that it is safe to sin. Otherwise the forgiveness of God becomes the lowest form of indulgence slanderously attributed to the Church of Rome. We gain freedom from law as well as penalty only by obedience. The artist can safely forget the laws and rules of his art only when by long obedience and practice he obeys them unconsciously. We seem to be threatened with a belief that God will never punish sin in one who has professed Christianity. This view cheapens sin and makes pardon worthless, it takes the iron out of the blood, and the backbone out of all our religion and ethics. It ruins Christians and disgraces Christianity. We sometimes seem to think that our nation or church or denomination is so important to the carrying on of God's work that he cannot afford to let any evil befall us, whatever we may do or be.
“Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest." That was plain preaching, and the people did not like it. They would not like it any better to-day; it would come too near the truth.
But others seem to think that God is too kind, not to say good-natured, to allow his children to suffer