GOD'S EXHAUSTIVE KNOWLEDGE OF MAN.
Psalji 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 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 selfexamination. 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 (log 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. u 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 destroved 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 vanis o
ity 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:
1 Pkns£es: Grandeur do l'homme, 6. Ed. Wetstein.
"lama 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; %nd 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."1
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
1 Chapman: Byron's Conspiracy.
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 bf 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 oion 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 artoiker 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 downsitting and uprising, and understands his thought afar off; that He compasses his path and his lyingdown, 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 fcrunos 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-knowledsre 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 hia 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 selfknowledge. 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. lie 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 selfknowledge 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.
Or, 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 au 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 Dature 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 selfexamination 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. Moat 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 selfinspection,—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 bv 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.
GOD'S EXHAUSTIVE KNOWLEDGE OF MAN.
Psalm cxxxix. 1-6.—" 0 Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising; thou nnderstandest my thought afar off. Thou compasseat my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, 0 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 selfknowledge 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 toluit 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 a 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 selfknowledge 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 iuspect. 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 final 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 Hock 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 selfinspection. 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 selfknowledge! 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 judgmentday 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 shut?
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 selfscrutiny, 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 treacling 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 corruption.
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 tho\ight 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 Leaven, 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 4
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 1 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
* " 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 msike 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 of his creatures,—let Us so conceive of the Judge of all the earth, and every one must present himself as a criminal before Him, and voluntarily prostrate and humble himself in deep solicitude concerning his absolution."
Calvin: Institutes, iii. 12. 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 coudemneth? 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 selfhnowledge 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 despair.
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 G od'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 selfknowledge, 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 feeliug 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.