Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is
God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.—Deut. iv., 30.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.—Matt. xxviii., 18.
THE first observation that I would beg to make in considering the Divine words before us is, that it is obvious from the text that man can know God. The first expression which is given in this hallowed declaration is know therefore, and it is followed by a still more emphatic utterance of the same lesson, and consider it in thine heart that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath; there is none else.
One of the great hindrances to having a clear conception of our God and Savior, is the prevalent idea that has for ages been fostered amongst men, that God cannot be known. There is a something so infinitely impossible to be understood, a something so pre-eminently above our comprehension in the nature of God, that in the words of a well-known creed, The Father is incomprehensible, and the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
It is indeed passing strange that Christian men should have such an idea, and make a declaration of that character, in spite of the continual teaching of Holy Writ,–not only that God can reveal Himself, but that the knowledge of God is the very highest of all knowledge. And this is not only declared in passages like that before us, where we are invited to know this subject, but in reiterated teachings throughout the Sacred Volume.
Take, for instance, Jeremiah ix., 23, 24, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let Him that glorieth glory in this, that understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, who exerciseth loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight saith the Lord. Thus, you perceive that to know, yes, and to understand the Lord, and not simply to know in the way of being informed, but to know so as to clearly comprehend, to understand, to see God as to His very nature and quality; this is what the Scriptures declare. Beyond all other glory; is this comprehension of God, beyond riches, beyond power, beyond all earthly wisdom, Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he knoweth and understandeth me, saith the Lord. And so it is; for if a person has got any real and true conception of God, he will know God far better than he knows his neighbor, far better even than he knows himself; for in all other beings there is a certain amount of concealment, a certain amount of covering felt to be necessary. Every one knows this in relation to himself. It is one of the most laborious of all things for a man to know himself, to know really what ho is, what progress he is really making, what is his real character. How often even the most honest of men is perplexed? He finds himself one day perhaps earnest and warm, delighting in all that is true and good, delighting in his opportunities to serve and bless his fellow-creatures. Another day he finds himself depressed, with purposes for good of a very faint, weak, and wavering character, and he begins to think that all the progress he supposes he had made is a mistake, he is really deceiving himself. He does not know himself, does not half know himself. And so with a mans neighbor. There is, from Divine Providence, the provision that every man is protected in his freedom by being surrounded with an earthly body. We are all covered up. The Lord has taken care that we shall have the capability of weighing, judging, and determining our faith from day to day, with no one to interfere with us, unless we permit. Therefore He has made it impossible for any man to know any other man except so far as that other man is disposed. So that we have hindrances in the way of knowing men, we have hindrances in the way of knowing ourselves.
But God is pure love, and pure wisdom, He is infinite goodness and infinite truth. He desires constantly to manifest Himself to the soul that seeks to know Him; and, hence, a man that really opens his heart to know Him, that really worships in sincerity and truth, and single-heartedly desires to embrace his God and Savior, he can know Him. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, says the Apostle, dwelleth in God, for God is love. He who knows the spirit of love, and with single eye and single heart seeks to join himself with his God and Savior, will know Him. There can be no mistake. A man can know God it great deal better than he can know himself, or know his fellow man. The Sacred Word declares, God is known when heavenly love is known. The Sacred Volume presents the matter before us. It tells us that God can be known, it tells us that He desires to be known, it tells us that whosoever seeks shall find, that whosoever knocks shall have it opened to him, whosoever asks in sincerity shall receive an answer. Know therefore, the Lord says, and consider it in thine heart, do not let it be a transient acquaintance; do not think now and then and lightly turn away from the subject, but consider, stop, ponder, weigh it well, keep at it till you have a clear knowledge concerning it. In the New Testament sometimes we have the same true thought in language such as this: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. In another gospel we are told that we are to love the Lord with heart, and mind, and strength, thus teaching us that we are not to exercise one faculty of the soul only upon God. Some have thought that God could be known by the heart; could be grasped by the affections, but not by the intellect. These have come nearer to the Lord than others have. But it is equally a mistake to suppose that the intellect cannot know God. The fact is, that man as to his whole nature is made in the image of God. In order that his whole nature may receive the spirit flowing from God into him, his heart is formed in order that God’s love may descend into it, bless it, and make it a likeness of Himself. His intellect is formed in order that God’s wisdom may descend into it, illuminate it, making it wise, and an image of Himself.
Mans other powers are given in order that these two sacred principles may determine the whole of the morning operations of soul and body, determine them to living rightly, walking rightly, doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. Our Lord says, Abide in me, and I in you. We are taught that we can be conjoined with our God and Savior, and know Him, love Him, serve Him, become like Him, and in this way be prepared at last to inherit His glorious kingdom. Know therefore, the Word says in our text, and consider it in thine heart that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and in the earth beneath; there is none else.
Before passing on to such other truths as may offer themselves for our attention during the evening, allow me just to engage your attention further to this declaration. These things are really so manifest, that unless we are called upon to dwell a little and to consider them, as the Word says here, we are apt not to receive the full impression they are intended to convey. A person would naturally say,–Well, of course, He who is God in heaven above is also God of the earth beneath, there is none else, but upon the subject of knowing the Lord, and worshiping Him in a glorious Divine Person, when we come to the details, we often find that there has been so much apathy, so much want of real comprehension of God, that the most astonishing questions are often asked. For instance, it is often said,–When the Lord Jesus was on earth, if He were God, who was governing the angels, or, what became of them in the meanwhile? As if the same Being that was God of heaven was not God of earth at all times, and conversely, that He who was Lord of the earth beneath was not also the Lord of heaven above. Do not I fill, as the Lord says, heaven and earth. It is a great truth that we should endeavor to realize, that the Lord fills all things, and is everywhere; manifests Himself or not in any particular part of His universe as His providence deems best. But He is always present. Thou God seest me is everyones best guard. The Christian pilgrim takes that truth to his heart, when he learns from what the Lord says in the Revelation, I stand at the door and knock,–speaking to every one at the present day, to you and to me, the Lord says, Behold I stand at the door and knock. He stands at the door of every heart, but He is not less the Lord of angels, the God of heaven. Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man will open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.
So that it is verily and indeed tree in every respect, that the Lord is God of heaven above; all the heavens are under His government, and are blessed by Him. His usual place of manifestation, if we may use the term, is in the Sun of the eternal world. The true light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world, there it is high above all heavens, where He manifests Himself in His glory, but He is present by His Holy Spirit everywhere. Just as it is with all other things when we rightly understand them, whatever they are in the greatest, so they are in the least. The sun in his greatest is that glorious globe which we behold, and which gives us light and heat. But, also, every my that comes from him and that enters the human eye is a little sun. Every crystal, whatever it is in its greatest fond, five-sided or ten-sided, so is it in its smallest portion; in the minute as in the large. So is it with our glorious God, our Father and Savior. In greatest and in least things He is a Divine Man, present with all His omnipotence in every past of the universe. The Lord he is God of heaven above and in the earth beneath; there is none else.
Not only so, but still more rigidly, He who governs heaven, governs the earth. The outward universe depends upon the sun, the heat, the light, and other influences which descend from Him. In this respect the Lord of earth must be Lord of heaven. The whole material universe depends upon the whole spiritual universe. It is so in relation to the Church and the world. The Church is the Lord’s heaven upon earth; the world is the Lord’s earth around the Church. And just as religion is in the Church, just that become all the institutions and arrangements of society in the world. He who would have the earth right must have heaven right. The Lord, he is God of heaven above and of the earth beneath. A bad Church makes a bad world. You may depend upon it, if there were not so many, (you must pardon me for saying so,) fraudulent doctrines in the Church, there would not be so many fraudulent practices in the world. It is because the teachings of religion are too often mere make-believes, that make-believes abound in every other department of society. God’s commandments are set aside by doctrines of substitution; our sins will not be punished, for Christ has been punished for them; righteous works are of no account with us, for we are to claim Christs infinite righteousness. This doctrine and other similar statements which lull the soul with illusory securities and make-believes, really lie at the bottom of all the frauds which in so many forms desolate society. The heaven–the church, being wrong, the earth becomes wrong. The Lord governs heaven, and through heaven the earth. To have a better earth, we must have a better heaven, a better world, a better church. Circumferences come from centers, its center, The Lord he is God of heaven above, and of the earth beneath; there is none else. We may pretend to deceive ourselves and our neighbors, and then somehow to get good out of fraud; to neglect to obey the Divine laws and hope to get good out of it, but it is a decided mistake. It will never succeed. We may conceive that there is some way of being happy, other than by being obedient and good. There is no way by which the soul can be made happy, but the way of goodness and truth; obeying God in nature, obeying Him in mind, obeying Him in thought and affection, and in word and work. The Lord he is God; and we shall find out more and more in practice, God of heaven above, and of the earth beneath; there is none else.
This great doctrine then is the one that we should first firmly establish in the mind. This is right. Let other lessons, as they come, conform to this as a first principle. But, let there be no mistake about embracing this, know and. consider in thine heart. Do not let it be buried in the memory or in the intellect, but let it go on till it gets into the heart, and determine that you will obey the Lord there, in the heart, in the intellect, and in the life, and you will find that then it will prepare you for the heaven above, whence the Divine laws spring; it will prepare you for happiness on the earth beneath, where the same laws are perpetually executed.
But are we then required to say that because there is this infinite unity of God, the same glorious Person ruling heaven and ruling earth, that me are not to believe in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? By no means. You are only called upon to understand how they are embraced in the same glorious Being who is God, and there is none else.
In inviting your attention to the second test, allow me to ask you to notice the commencement of it. Go ye THEREFORE. This therefore is frequently not judged of weight sufficient to bring the mind precisely to what is implied in it. The therefore, of course, refers to something that has gone before, and that which has gone before you will find to be this, All power is given unto me, in heaven and on earth. Therefore in language very similar to that we had in our first test, in which the Lord proclaims that He is Jehovah, God of the heavens above and the earth beneath. Here our blessed Lord says, All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth. He intends to teach that He is now God manifest, who had previously been God unmanifest,–God, of whom it is said, No man hath seen God at any time, had condescended to our weakness, and made Himself known as a man. The Creator had become our Redeemer. He had brought; His Divine excellence down into the very valley of human wants and requirements; and the same God, who from eternity was the Everlasting Father, veiled Himself in our nature and appeared on our earth in a Humanity called the Son. He lived a life on earth the very antetype in all things of the life His Spirit lives over again in us. Christ in us is the hope of glory.
The Divine Wisdom, when it enters the soul, is born as it were an infant Christ in yon is the hope of glory. He grows up and dwells and walks in us.–2 Cor. vi., 16. In all our perplexities, our faults, and our follies, He bears with us. Evils at length arise, and states of weakness in which we spiritually crucify Him afresh, but if there be also real affections for goodness and truth within us when we have come to this crisis of our being, we shall see how awfully we have offended against our Lord. A period of darkness, penitence, and despair will come over us, and in our prostration and agony we shall turn to our Lord whom we have slighted with all-adoring love. We shall lift up our God and Savior, and glorify Him in ourselves as He is glorified in the universe. Our Lord’s life upon earth is spiritually realized by His life in the regenerate. When He became our Redeemer, He had therefore to live just such a life as He did, until the whole of His humanity became glorified, and then the embodied God-head filled it completely, and made it like itself, and he said, all power is given unto me in heaven and on earth, All the blessedness that angels receive will be poured into them from me; all power is given unto me in heaven and on earth, THEREFORE, because all the God-head was thus embodied in the Divine Man, because everything that was merely infirm was removed, and down to His visible presence He was God manifest in the flesh; as He was all perfect; perfect in His Divine beauty as He was perfect in His everlasting soul, therefore He says, whatever is meant by Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, you behold in me, I have all power. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world (age).
Just notice exactly every part of the teaching of this and you will see how beautifully it harmonizes with the teaching of the other, Baptizing them in the name off the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. What was that name? The name that the disciples did baptize in, and which you will find, wherever baptism is mentioned in the subsequent, parts of Sacred Writ, is either the Lord Jesus, or simply the Lord. You will find it very often referred to, as we said, sometimes as the Lord, simply because the Lord especially means in the New Testament, God manifest in the Savior. No man, it is said there, can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Spirit. To this end Christ both died and revived, and rose again that He might be Lord of the dead and the living, said the Apostle. Of Jesus, again it is said, He is Lord of all. So that when we read of people being baptized in the name of the Lord, it was to tell us that then men were able to understand that God had been manifested in all the fullness of His God-head bodily in the Lord Jesus Christ. God was not now a distant, undefined, awful power, but a present God. Human beings could adore in the language of the Te Deum, which soon embodied their heartfelt worship: We praise thee O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord! all the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting. Now the Savior God said, Come unto me all ye that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. He that eateth me shall live by me. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life.
He that cometh unto me shall never hunger, and he that believeth in me shall never thirst. God, in this way brought down to us and presented in all fullness and beauty, was Divine Mercy in human form. This is the God that men were to see, know, love, and follow, because they were sure that He would do everything for them. He had lived for them, died for them, risen again for them. The Holy Spirit from Him came down to every man of them. Therefore knowing that Jesus had all power in heaven and on earth, they would never fear either that He would not receive them, or that they could not understand Him, or that He had not power to help them. Go and baptize all nations then into this name, Jesus Christ, the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
But this name, and these three definitions, are not now repetitions of the same idea. In the Lord the Father means one thing, the Son means another thing, and Holy Spirit means a third; but all in One glorious Divine Person. The Father means the Divine love of God, that is, at the very bottom of the attributes of Deity, the very core of all the essential majesty of the God-head. The Divine love is the father of everything, it is the father in God. The ruling love in a man is father of his ideas, words, and works. You will remember the words of the poet,
The wish is father to the thought.
Well, the infinite love of God is the Father of all He does; and hence the Lord Jesus said, The Father who is in me, He doeth the works. Go forth and baptize in the name of the Father. We are to think of the Divine love, the infinite Divine affection that is in our glorious Master, the very heart of the God-head, as it were; that which not only was the Father of the universe, but Father of the great work of Redemption. For in his love and in his pity he redeemed us. Divine love was Father of redemption. In the name of the Savior. No man cometh unto the Father, He says, but by me. I am the may, the truth, and the life. Well, then, when it is said, Baptize them in the name of the Father, it means, baptize them in the name of that infinite LOVE, that is the source and spring of every blessing.
And of the Son, because love manifests itself in order to bless men; and hence, the TRUTH that manifests love is the highest idea, that we can have of the SON. Unless love were to manifest itself in the may of wisdom, love would remain alone and never do anything. In the Eternal Being of the God-head, then, there is first, as we said, the Father, infinite love, let us suppose it to be the very esse and bottom of Divinity, to be conceived of as existing before creation. We cannot easily understand that. But this is the Father. If nothing came out, no wisdom, no manifestation of Divine thought, as it were no Word; if this were not put forth there would be no creation. Just as finite love can only effect its operations by finite thought, so infinite love can only effect its operations by infinite thought. The essence of this Son, then, is the Divine Wisdom or Word of the Eternal, which as Divine Wisdom was in the beginning with God and was God; that Word was made flesh when it proceeded to come down, as it were, to take the hand of human creatures. The Word, the Divine reason, Divine thought, enclosed itself in human finite forms, even to the flesh, that men is their then low state might learn to know and love Him, and be conjoined with God again. This Divine Wisdom embodied in the flesh is the Son. Just as light is born from fire, just as the branch is born from the tree, just so Divine thought, the Divine light of heaven, the Divine truth, is born from this Divine love, and therefore it is called the Son.
In the Hebrew language, that which is produced from anything is called its son. The name for arrow is, son of the bow; the word for a branch is, son of the tree, the word for a spark, the son of the fire; the phrase for a bad man, is the son of wickedness. Therefore, the Humanity that was produced from God, when He condescended to become our Redeemer and Savior is called, His only begotten Son. Not that it was another distinct person from Him, but because it was His own Divine Wisdom embodied in the human form, and clothing itself so that men might know and love Him. So it is said, All power is given unto me in heaven, and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and baptize in the name of the Father. For all that the Father hath is mine, as the Lord said on another occasion. Baptize them in the name of the Son, for I am the Son, God manifest in the flesh; and baptize them in the name of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is mine, all power is mine, all God-head is mine, and therefore baptize them in my name, and that is the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just as the charge began with Himself, so it closed with Himself, And lo! I am with you always. Thus you see, taking the whole three again into the one single expression, I, For lo! I am with you. If there had been three people in the Divine Trinity, if there were divisions in the Godhead, and repetitions, as it were, it could hardly be that the Divine charge would have closed without saying, and lo! we will be with you always. If there are three distinct omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient beings, they must have special attributes, we should need them all three. If we do not want them all three, if really one will do, what necessity to think about any more. It is quite evident from this closing language that the Lord Jesus taught His people that He was all-sufficient for all their wants. Lo! I am with you always. Then, wherever you, I am omnipresent, and therefore I shall be with you, and you want no one else; whatever you have to suffer, I am omnipotent; all power is given unto me in heaven, and on earth. Oh yes, given. A friend who has not fully discussed all these things may say, given; mind that, Given mite me, all power? How could it be given? Why only in one way. By God giving Himself to the Humanity, and making it perfect, as the Divinity was perfect, that is the only way. For power is not a thing that can be separated from substance. There are some people who do not enter very closely and narrowly into matters of this kind, who imagine for instance that power is like a staff, and that it can be handed from one person to another, and thus there might have been all power in the hands of the Father, just as we said like a scepter, and be handed over. Cut this can hardly be conceived. Power always follows substance, you will have no power to burn separate from the fire; you will have no power to quench thirst separate from a fluid. If the power to do anything is given, the thing itself that has power to do it will be given also. If, therefore, omnipotence is given to the Lord’s Humanity, the God-head itself that has omnipotence must be given to the Humanity. In no other way could all power be given unto Him.
And, thus we understand what is said in another place, All that the Father hath is mine, and All mine are thine, and thine are mine. All that the Father hath; the Fathers life, the love, the Fathers substance, all that the Father hath and is, must be so blended with the Humanity, that God was man and man was God in the same glorious Divine Person. Therefore when God gave Himself, He gave all His power along with it, and the Humanity when it became Divine, received all the powers of the God-head, and exercised them. And so states that other passage in the Old testament that seems so completely correlative to this. You will see the subject is treated precisely in the same way, Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, (Isaiah ix.) and the government shall he upon his shoulder, the glorified Son exercising all the powers of the God-head, just as the spiritualized lower nature of a man, when it becomes truly regenerated, receives and displays all the tempers and everything connected with his angelic nature within; so that he becomes one spiritual man, one angelic man. So, with the Lord, when His Humanity became fully glorified, then the government rests for ever on His shoulder. All power for ever is given unto Him in heaven and on earth. And his name shall be called Wonderful, because He is beyond all measure wonderful in the infinitude of His love. His name is called Counselor, because all Wisdom is His, all good counsels flow from Him. The Mighty God, not a Mighty God, but the Mighty God, the very Father of all power is there; The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Thus showing us that when the Lord’s Humanity was glorified, the Father in the Son, and the Holy Spirit flowing from both, these are the same God manifest to men, that according to our first text had ruled in the Old Dispensation in the heaven above and on the earth beneath. We can still further say, that now and for ever–for Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and for ever now and for ever; there is none else.
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Scripture Paradoxes -Their True Explanation (1868)