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THE IMPORTANCE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
John xvii. 3. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent:
HE belief of a God is the foundation of all religion. If we come to God," for the purpose of worship, we must believe that he is ;" and we cannot come to him aright, without knowing what he is, or what are the perfections which he possesses. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance to obtain a right knowledge of his character; and this is what is affirmed by "the faithful and true witness" in the words of our text. Our Lord asserts that "it is eternal life" to know the only true God —that is, it is the means, the way, the sure and only way to eternal life :-that there is a connexion between the right knowledge of the only true God, and the attainment of eternal felicity, of which, indeed, this knowledge furnishes the true Christian with the beginning and the earnest.
Let us here consider,
1. The glorious objects of saving knowledge; and, 2. The connexion of this knowledge with eternal life.
I. The great and glorious objects of saving knowledge, mentioned in the text, are" the only true God," and "his Son Jesus Christ."
The mind of man was formed for knowledge. He is endowed with faculties superior to those of all other creatures upon earth, which render him capable of obtaining the knowledge of God. You cannot, by any means, communicate to the most sagacious animal, the least idea of the great Creator; but man was originally made in "the image" of his Maker; of which image, "knowledge" formed an essential part; and when fallen man is renewed by grace, in the image of God, he is renewed "in knowledge and true holiness."
It is an unhappy consequence of man's apostacy from God, that he is not disposed to seek him. On the contrary, wicked men say to God, in their hearts and by their practice, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." In all other matters, it is natural to man to look at every object around him, and to ask-What is it? What is it for? Whence does it come? Man naturally enquires into the reasons and causes of things: and, surely, the first cause, the great maker of all, should be the first and chief object of enquiry. And, were we rightly disposed to seek him, we should soon find him. "He is not far from every one of us." We are surrounded with God. The heavens, the earth, the sea, display his glory. The whole world is a kind of looking-glass, in which his perfections are reflected; for "the invisible things of him, even his power and godhead, are clearly seen by the things that appear." But alas! "the world by wisdom. knew not God:" and the reason was, "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge; therefore God gave them over to a reprobate mind,"—" they changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator: they even "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the image of corruptible men, yea, of fourfooted beasts and creeping things." The better sort of the gods which the heathen adored, were, in general, patterns of abominable vices; and it is no
wonder that their worshippers imitated them, and mingled their devotions with the most execrable deeds. Hence it was that some of their wise men, sensible of the mischief of such a system, wished that the poets, who dressed up in fine language the stories and the vices of the gods, should be banished from the country, as the enemies of society.
In opposition to this wretched gang of deities, the knowledge of "the only true God" is here extolled. JEHOVAH is the only true God; all others are false: they are "vanity and lies." A principal design of divine Revelation was to maintain this great truth,
"There is ONE GOD, and there is none other but HE." Mark xii. 32. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." Deut. vi. 4: and the Jewish nation had the honour, for many ages, of being the chief supporters of this great doctrine, amidst a world of blind idolaters. The sacred Scriptures which they possessed, and which were the treasury of this sacred truth, have been handed down to us; and we enjoy, in addition to them, the testimonies of the inspired apostles in the New Testament; and, above all, the testimony of the Son of God himself in our text, and in many other places. In the scriptures of truth we learn all that is necessary to be known of God. All his moral as well as his natural perfections are therein displayed. There we learn that he is ETERNAL, ALMIGHTY, OMNIPRESENT, HOLY, JUST, WISE, FAITHFUL, and GooD. Blessed be God for these bright discoveries of his infinite perfections! It is life eternal to know thee, the only true God!
But, in our text, we find the knowledge of Jesus Christ is made of equal importance with the knowledge of God; which seems to imply that Jesus Christ is equal with God; and so indeed he is. At the first view of these words, some may think that the inferiority of our Saviour is intimated, for it is said "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ," &c. But
the title of "the only true God" is not intended to exclude the Son of God, but to exclude idols. Jehovah is the only true God, and idols are nothing; but as Jesus Christ is, in many places of the Scripture, declared to be the true God, the text cannot be understood as a denial of his Deity; but it is intended to shew that it is necessary to salvation, not only to know God as a Creator, but also as a Saviour: it is as necessary to know Jesus the Mediator, by whom we come to the Father, as it is to know the Father himself; and as we said before, thus rendering the knowledge of Christ as necessary to eternal life as the knowledge of God the Father, the text, instead of rejecting the divinity of Jesus, affords a powerful argument for it ;-and here let it be observed, that the three names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are not intended to explain to us the manner in which the three divine persons subsist, for that is not revealed, nor could we comprehend it if it were; but they are the office names of the three divine persons in the Godhead; and express the characters they sustain in the covenant of grace; and these "Three are One"-three in person and in office, but one in nature and in essence.
The true divinity of our Saviour is strongly asserted in the following scripture :-John v. 22, 23, "The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." And in the 20th chapter of St. John, verse the 28th, we find the apostle, St. Thomas, saying to Christ, "My Lord, and my God." St. Paul also charges the elders of Ephesus to "feed the church of God, which he" (that is, Christ) "purchased with his own blood." Acts xx. 28. Many more passages might be cited in proof of this doctrine, but we add only the following: Rom. ix. 5, "Of whom," that is, of the fathers, "as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." It is necessary to know the Son of God as described by those two names-JESUS