Philip Bennett Power
It is the fashion in the present day to talk of man?s enlightenment, and to represent human nature as upheaving under its load, as straining towards a knowledge of truth; such is not in reality the case, and wherever there is an effort in the mind untaught of the Spirit, it is directed towards God as the great moral, and not as the great spiritual Being. A man untaught of the Holy Ghost may long to know a moral, he never can desire to know a spiritual Being.
It is true, we have daily displayed before us the increasing knowledge of man: but knowledge is one thing, and true wisdom is another, and the world by its wisdom knows not God.
The idea, then, of those whom we are accustomed to call ?good people? in the world, is that when they recognize the existence of God, they do enough; when they acknowledge His moral government, no more can be required; the ideas of God?s people on these points are, however, very different. In the first place, they feel that they can neither know nor desire God?s way by themselves. This they have been taught by the Holy Ghost. The Spirit has made them feel that the natural bent of their minds was away from God; they have even detected their minds in the very act of loathing divine things; they have felt themselves vile and wicked, in their distaste to all that is spiritual; but with all this knowledge they could make no advance, the truth being, that they had still the carnal heart, which, no matter what it knows or feels, is, and must be, ?enmity against God.?
The men of the world are steeped in ignorance as regards all things belonging to God, and the spiritual life. The world lies in darkness; it loves darkness; it cannot comprehend any other conditions save that of darkness; and it will not come to the light because its deeds are evil. Nor was the condition of the world changed by the coming of our Lord; it rolls on in darkness now, just as it did when He was upon the earth; and so it will roll, until He appear again in light and glory, when the light shall overcome the darkness, and that, when it is thicker and denser than ever it was before.
The people of the world do not care for enlightenment; they feel no pressing need for it; in all probability they have an instinctive feeling that if enlightened they would know a little more than they wish to know; that their newly acquired knowledge would interfere with their old habits and ways, and this is one reason why all spiritual teaching which goes beneath the surface is distasteful to the majority of men. They cannot bear to be brought into contact with God, in anything but a general way; the particulars of His character may not agree over well with the particulars of their lives!
The perfection of home relationship consists in the intuitive understanding of each other?s heart, in the mutual possession of that secret, which makes one look stand for many words, yea, for feelings, which the great Creator never intended to be expressed in words at all; such an instrumentality as this, stands in the place of a thousand rules; and gives guidance, and direction, in countless emergencies, and difficulties, and apparently little things. This is what makes brethren dwell together in unity; what anoints the wheels of life.
The wonder is, not that we were ignorant, but that we were ever made wise; and the wonder is dispelled, only by our seeing that this was done by the immediate working of the Spirit.
There is no point on which the world is more dark than that of its own ignorance ? we might truly say, ?it is ignorant of its ignorance? ? it knows enough when it learns by rote a few first principles of religion; it comforts itself that it is not atheistical because it believes that there is a God; but as to knowing His ways, laws, mind, or any such things, with them it has nothing at all to do.
With all man?s increase in knowledge, it is really wonderful how little he has increased in practical wisdom. The pages of history seem to have taught him but little; the experiences of others seem to be thrown away on him; and in kingdoms, societies, and the individual circles of men?s daily life, we see the same old faults and follies renewed again and again. If we strip these of the adventitious circumstances connected with them, we shall find how little variety there is in sin. If the people of the world continue thus ignorant in those things which come so easily within their comprehension, which come so frequently under their observation, and in which their own visible interests are concerned, is it any wonder that they are ignorant of the things of God, of His ways, of His laws, of His mind, of the fact that God seeth not as man seeth, that His ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts?
Every man that is born of the Spirit knows that he was ignorant, and that he loved to continue ignorant, and that he felt a natural aversion to be taken out of his ignorance, and that he struggled against the workings and strivings of the Spirit be it more or less, when that Spirit came into his heart, to enlighten him about the ways of God.
If indeed we know ourselves, we shall almost tremble at this thought; we shall feel the awful solemnity of saying such words as these, ?Teach me Thy way, O Lord, I will walk in Thy truth;? and yet we shall not dare to hold back from making them our own.
The daily circumstances of life will afford us opportunities enough of glorifying God in trust, without our waiting for any extraordinary calls upon faith, our faith. Let us remember that the extraordinary circumstances of life are but few; that much of life may slip past without their occurrence; and that if we be not faithful and trusting in that which is little, we are not likely to be so in that which is great... Let our trust be reared in the humble nursery of our own daily experience, with its ever recurring little wants and trials, and sorrows; and then, when need be, it will come forth, to do such great things as are required of it.
To tell the truth, however, family and poverty have done more to support me than I have to support them. They have compelled me to make exertions that I hardly thought myself capable of; and often when on the eve of despairing, they have forced me, like a coward in a corner, to fight like a hero, not for myself, but for my wife and little ones.