J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 1.)
A revelation supposes its own possibility, for what exists is possible - that is clear, but it is not an a priori point, for it would have to be proved - it cannot be proved without a revelation. But it is not doubted either, save as a result of reasoning; man never questions the possibility of a revelation. In his natural state, he makes God too like himself, or like a fish, to suppose he cannot communicate with man; it is only when revelation has made known the true God - perhaps a mixture of reasoning and conscience can go thus far, as in Plato - that the distance is felt; at any rate, a revelation is not made to Platonists.
Mankind have no idea of such a difficulty; and a revelation, besides being founded on an actual revelation of God, as to Abraham at Sinai, in the Person of the Lord Jesus to Paul, is, when it becomes individual, only to conscience in the power of the Holy Ghost.
We are accustomed to think of revelation as it stands now before us, but no revelation began so; it was to a people called by the revelation of God Himself, to a people or to individuals to whom He displayed His power - or if false, who so pretended, or had diabolical revelations. But it is true there is no natural supposition that God cannot reveal Himself; it revolts feeling, and one may feel it ought to be, and must be, or it destroys all link with God, all positive authority (not sense of right and wrong, that is independent of it, we are as God "one of us" in that) and direct responsibility; but I do not think reason ascribes to Him a capacity to communicate with the creature He has made. The heathen doctrine of logos, bathos, silence the unknown God, all flow from a certain apprehension of God, which consciously reasoned Him - man far away from God.
Power of apprehending by thought is not the same however as power of communicating to man; I do not say to thought used in the sense of reason, which use of it however is a great fallacy, when used to say mind or man's power of concluding is all that is thought. It is a small and very narrow part - in reasoning, my mind is the measure, and it cannot go beyond itself. But that does not prove that another cannot produce a sensible effect on the soul, and that is a thought - the two things are quite distinct; the two even run up into one, in what I may call instructive thought. A holy, living Being produces trust; it is a conclusion, but it is not a calculated reasoning, or it would not de facto take place - we have often to correct such conclusions in fact, but they are often far truer than calculation.
302 It is false that reasoning is the highest faculty of the soul; conscience and affection in which thoughts are produced, as acted on, are both clearly higher. Reasoning is the province of a weak nature that does not know intuitively beyond physical science; it is the result of weakness, and ruin in its nature, of imperfect and feeble knowledge - de facto Science is so too.
Eternal power and Godhead may be discovered by reasoning, still more and clearer by impressions; but what He is, reasoning can in no wise tell, feeling and impression can, in a measure. I feel He must be good and pure - but that is no reasoning. But though I admit it is folly to deny a revelation - folly as to reason - I do not admit that, as a mere objective thing without, God s character, ways, etc., can be made known - if this implies the fact and not the mere display, the act it may be, but not the how of it. Hence capacity I admit, powers I deny; and this is the doctrine of Scripture - adequate evidence, but no perception - yet on the other hand, rejection and darkness through the will, "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life," "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not," "they have both seen and hated" is not any true knowledge of God. Love and Light were displayed, but the light was rejected, and the love never known at all; God's character and ways were not known, they were displayed. What man could see, he hated, hence sin; what God is to those who knew Him, man did not see - they say "we see," and their sin remained, yet He does not say "ye see." He can, to explain this, say "seeing, they see not, nor yet understand"; that would bring conversion and healing, for receiving Him man must be born again, i.e., the quickening word (therefore faith) reaches him by the Holy Ghost, but not by reasoning, but by that in which he is subject, not active.
This difference between responsibility and grace is constantly overlooked, i.e., previous responsibility ends where grace begins; responsibility is in a relation where we are; hence, when grace has put us in one and for ever, there is responsibility there. Acted on, man finds himself lost, and is saved.
303 Reasoning is never conscience, though a rational creature may have both, and one may act on the other, or rather be a basis for its acting. God's reasoning is an appeal to heart and conscience, not to reasoning.
Christianity is a revelation, not merely of what all may learn as Newton's Principia, but which does put them, not as instruments, but in relationship just as near God as Paul himself - that is what it reveals.
The notion of rare condescension in a revelation is an utterly absurd objection, if the thing revealed be complete truth, because, once revealed, there it is for all times - it is itself eternal. There may be, because of man's weakness, a preparation for it, and there was a testing of man which was the true preparation for grace. This men may object to, though the right-minded will only see the goodness and wisdom of God; in both wisdom will be justified of her children; but to object to revelation (for we must not confound inspiration with it, though this, in a special manner, be needed for revelation), that it is "rare," is unmitigated nonsense - except through patient mercy, a revelation must be, for what it contains, unique, save as patient mercy towards men may confirm it by renewed testimony, yet these are in fact never identical. The objection of a yoke upon conscience is simply saying that light is a yoke and burden on the eye in seeing - either everybody has all the light and knowledge of God, and of right and love, and spiritual purity, that it is possible to have, or a revelation is a blessing. Besides, divine authority is necessary if God and man are to have to say to each other. Under the plea of reason, refusal of revelation is merely a claim of absolute independence of God, and thus it betrays itself.
I find gods of passions in Heathenism (and, though modified necessarily, in Popery too, i.e., the saints are used to get the desires of men's hearts), and I find conscience in individuals, and amiable qualities; I find the latter in infidels, and men will make much of their natural conscientiousness and amiable qualities, in contrast with others, to exalt self. But I never find God and conscience connected but in revelation - even in Judaism, "who shall ascend into thy holy hill, who shall dwell in thy tabernacles; he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart," etc.; the character of God is brought to bear on conscience in every respect, and this is connected with our happiness - being with God, and consequently necessary according to His nature and character.
304 Christianity does more; besides bringing us to God, and without a veil, and because it has, it sends us out in love to others, who have not this, to bring them to it, because we know God who is Love, are partakers of the divine nature, and He dwells in us according to it - hence there is an activity of love, and that to bring to God.
Gods of passions - man pretending to be much by himself - that, I find in heathenism; in infidelity, poor wretched man is all. But in revelation man associated with, brought unto God's presence, and what he is connected with that, first in the claims of His nature, and then in the activities of His grace, but now I insist on the connection of character. Grace, in every sense, gives a closer connection, making us partakers of His nature, filling us with Him; but I speak now of moral connection - that is only in revealed truth.
False religions never take notice of the conduct of their votaries, but of their interests, i.e., their relationship with their God is based on their interests - the question of conduct is a question of Corban (a gift) only.
In the case of corrupted truth or true religion, this has been necessarily more difficult, because the judgment of God morally is the basis of it all, see Romans, and it seemed to overturn its base, not to have men immediately responsible to God; but here the human priesthood comes in, and Corban has its place, and the priesthood is charged with the responsibility of the mass, so that their responsibility to God is not destroyed but merged, and, so far as the priesthood do not settle that, it is attached to signs or sacraments with which Corban is associated, and the immediate relationship of the soul with God is merged there. So far as it is maintained, it is maintained not in the grace which draws near - the true Corban - but in the terror of judgment and eternity, which throws their souls, not into the blessings of the divine ways in Christ, the true and only Corban of God, but into the devotions of which we speak, and God's moral being is effectually excluded - for indeed man cannot approach such a God.
What we have to do is not to see this, but to lift up the veil on what God is in holiness - not in terror, as if He frightened away, and others could draw near - and manifest Him in love; and by the power of the testimony, which brings Him near, connect men with the holiness of God by the grace of Christ, by which, and by which alone, they can be near and know His holiness really, for judgment dreaded, though true, is not holiness known, nor apprehended.
Love and Holiness
The love of God is the source of all our blessings and joys, and God is Love; but in a certain sense His holiness elevates us more. His love is perfect; we dwell in love, dwell in God, and God in us; it is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us - it is proved by the death of Christ, and so we are to walk in it. But it cannot be said we are love; God is sovereign in love, "rich in mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us" - all this is, objectively blessedness, and in us, and enjoyed by us in communion.
It is said we are "light in the Lord"; He makes us partakers of His holiness - partakers morally of the divine nature. No doubt we love, but we are light. How blessed this partaking of the divine nature! And to this we must have respect too in our relationships with God. We know, thank God, that He is love towards us, and indeed in us; but He is Light, and as this tested man, so, in grace, man is made it, i.e., the new man has this character, "after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness."
Now I cannot but feel that, in fact, there are souls perfectly sincere, and in Christ agreeable to God, who as to the Word and prayer are in an outside place practically. The Word is the revelation of God, and, in and by a Man, suited to man, reaching him there where he is; and prayer takes up our wants where we are, and presents them to God - goes in where He is, according to what He is.
Now there are practically two states - true states - as Christians in connection with this; the Word reaches a renewed soul as for man down here, and so it is, but he takes it, and as down here - it is a light to his feet and a lantern to his path, but he takes it as suited to him down here. It came he recognises, from God, but it occupies itself with his condition here; it came out from God to him who is outside - came in grace, and he so received it, and all right. But, save in owning the grace that gave it, he does not go in where it came from, but is thankful for that which is a light where he is, and so far it is all right, but his spirit remains there, in that which the Word is adapted to; this was properly the character of the law. In the case I refer to, there is this difference between it and law, that grace is owned in God, and in that given, which is very important; but the man remains outside, and has a word adapted to him as walking as a man outside. He is not living, thinking, feeling inside by it. The ray has come down and lit up his path, but he is in, and occupied with his path, though acknowledging the Sun as the source of light.
307 So in prayers; men are in wants and difficulties down here, and they carry them, as down here, to God, and this is all quite right, and they will be surely heard, and graciously heard.
But there are Christians, whom the Word carries in to what it reveals, not what it throws light upon. Divine wisdom does give here a path, according to divine wisdom, which the vulture's eye has not seen, but it comes from above, takes the heart up to the source from which it comes, and reveals what is there, and causes the soul to live there, and this is another thing. It does not cease to enlighten the path, and we need it - God's wisdom in this world, a divine path in it; but Oh! how much more blessed to have fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ - to say "the only-begotten Son who is (ho on) in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" - to know where He is gone and the way!
Christ is God's way and truth in this world, but He is the way to and revealer of the Father, and the things which God has prepared for them that love Him, the way of knowing the things freely given to us of God; and we may live in them, and understand, for example, the promises to the seven Churches, and a thousand other passages which tell us about what is within. We have it revealed in John, we are brought into it by Paul, and even by John too. And so with prayer; I may pray from my wants, and for my wants, and others, too, as we have seen, and it is all right. But if I am living in the heavenly things, and see the saints in the beauty that belongs to them in Christ, and my prayers for myself and for them are formed in what I am dwelling in, how much higher and more earnest they will be; I am thinking of them, or of myself, with the thoughts of God, and want them to reach them - my desires are formed by these, and I labour with God in prayer for them. The Word, through the power of the Spirit, reveals heavenly things - I see the saints according to God's mind in them, and as with God, and for carrying out His desires, and His thoughts for and in them, I plead with God according to these thoughts. Oh! what a different thing it is! But how near we must be to God so to labour in prayer - to labour for the carrying out His thoughts in them, as they are inside with Him.
308 NOTE. - It is good sometimes to see the saints, the Church and people of God in their own beauty as viewed of God; it elevates our thoughts, gives God's mind of what is lovely and what we ought to be, but are in God's mind, so that His affections and delight are revealed to us. Surely it will humble us as to our practical state. Thus in the parables of the treasure hid in the field, and pearl of great price, we have what they are to Christ - He sells all He has to have them, gives up His life, everything, to have them, for joy thereof - what a place to have with Him! Indeed in a higher scene, when in the form of God, He gave up the outward glory, and made Himself of no reputation, and took on Him the form of a servant - when He was rich, for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. But doubtless the parable specially designates what He possessed as Messiah, but not excluding higher glory. So He shall see the fruit of the travail of His Soul - in us - and be satisfied. So in the parable of the pearl of great price, He was looking for what was specially lovely and beautiful - understood it - was seeking it, according to His estimate of what was beautiful, and that was according to Himself - His own mind - and found one specially lovely, and sold all to have it - the saints in whom He could delight and be satisfied - so precious to Him, He gives up all for them; how lovely they must be in His mind, for they are indeed according to it - He loved the Church and gave Himself for it, to sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word, to present it to Himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish - a pearl of great price. Hence He will be, in the end, glorified in His Church and admired in all them that believe. How blessed, and what rest it gives the heart! But even now He says: "And I am glorified in them."
END OF VOLUME 1