“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” – Jeremiah 2:13
The second chapter of Jeremiah tells how men departed from their primitive state in which they trusted in the Lord and were defended from falsities and evils. The decline began when they rejected the Lord’s guidance, making up rules of life for themselves, substituting for the Divine Laws laws hatched from the natural reason.
The Sacred Scriptures teach everywhere that human life and all life depends upon God. Every created thing is a recipient of life from God, who is Life Itself. People have tried to explain man and the universe apart from God, but this irrational attempt introduces a fundamental error into the science and art of living. Or it is sometimes assumed that, although there is a God who works in His universe, He cannot be known, and consequently men can have no conscious part in the carrying out of His purposes. This idea leads to determinism and a belief in predestination, which means that every act of man is impelled by some internal necessity, and that knowledge of God and His purposes is not required of him because to think and feel and behave other than he does is impossible.
But we live in no such world as that. The Divine plan does not contemplate mere puppets in human form, but instead conscious and intelligent cooperation with our Creator in establishing the kingdom of God among men.
Our destiny turns upon our relation to God, but it does so not by our ignoring this relation and remaining ignorant of it but by our recognizing and understanding it and so acting in a voluntary and understanding spirit, either wisely or foolishly, in our relation to God. This is the fundamental fact of human life. We are free agents. We are entirely dependent upon God, but life from Him is given to us in such a way that we feel it as our own. It seems that we possess in our own name the right and title to all our powers. This vital connection with our Creator can never be severed; to sever it would be to suffer total annihilation of soul and body, and life could never attain its legitimate and happy goal.
All life and all blessings flow from God. Why then should anyone, like the people of whom the prophet Jeremiah spoke, forsake the “fountain of living waters” and hew out broken, earthly, human cisterns incapable of receiving the water of life? It is the stream which proceeds out of the throne of God and the Lamb that sustains the tree of life and makes it yield fruit every month, and that gives to its leaves the power to heal the nations.
Knowledge of God opens heaven to us and unlocks the latent possibilities of the soul. Often in the Scriptures truths are likened to seeds, which have within themselves the vital principle of growth. The truth that there is a God who can be known is such a seed, which contains within itself all the possibilities of the harvest. In heaven every angel’s mind is centered on the Lord; consequently the Lord is ever before them. God is known as their very life, and recognized as the source of all that heaven means to them, the repository of all future wisdom and happiness. And all who live otherwise the angels regard as spiritually insane, having violated the first principle of the science and art of living. The broken cisterns which men build, that cannot hold water, are the doctrines men have framed which teach that God is unknowable. Men who so think call themselves agnostics – know-nothings. The angels would say that they are rightly named.
To every one is given an inner dictate which, if not killed out, constantly impels his mind to the belief that there is a God and that He is one. Without this belief as a basis man creates for himself a world which is chaotic and meaningless, which cannot satisfy any of the deeper longings of the soul. The cisterns are broken and cannot hold the water of life.
God has revealed Himself in His written Word. If we read it and find that it does not tell us of Him, it is because we have closed the higher reaches of our minds. Again and again God has revealed Himself down through the ages, by revelation upon revelation. He became incarnate as Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us. His voice has sounded everywhere, and those who have not heard Him are those who have hid themselves in caves and dens of the rock from the face of Him who sitteth upon the throne. The fact is that the only way in which we can escape the knowledge of God is by closing our eyes or fleeing into darkness.
We can never know all that is to be known about God because He is infinite, but we can and do know a great deal about Him, and we may constantly increase our knowledge. We shall always have limited or finite conceptions of Him, but the infinite glory will shine through with constantly increasing splendor until “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.”
Belief in the existence of God is the first step that we must take. We must know that God exists before we can know more about Him. So the Bible begins with the statement of this fact. God must be a fact to us, not a theory or question mark; otherwise the windows of the soul will not open toward heaven.
And God must be known as a Man. That is to say, our idea of God must be the idea of a Person. We must not think of God as a diffused essence, a formless spirit. This conception is very prevalent today, but it leads to nature worship and finally to atheism. It is a deification of the invisible forces of the natural world. In fact it is worse than idolatry, because idolatry at least gives a human figure and implies the thought of God as a person.
Man is a representative image and likeness of God, and Jesus in His Divine Human is God incarnate and the sole object of worship. We are told in the writings that in the heavens the Lord Jesus Christ alone is worshiped, and that no one comes into heaven until he acknowledges this truth. This is because without knowledge of the Lord there can be no conjunction with Him. That is why our writings state that the New Jerusalem “will be the crown of all the churches, because it will worship one visible God in whom is the invisible as the soul is in the body. Thus and not otherwise can conjunction be effected between God and man.”
And we should know that God is love and wisdom – both infinite and perfect. If we do not know this, we can neither understand Him nor love Him. Love and wisdom make the true man on earth, and the worship and pursuit of these in their infinite and perfect form are needed to bring man to perfection. We should never attribute anger, hatred, or ill will of any sort to God. God never wishes nor causes any evil. Permissions of evil there are in abundance, but evils come from the evil, and the Lord’s motive in His permission of them is the tenderest mercy, in order to check the downward course of men and so far as possible to reclaim them. God can entertain no grudge. He has no desire to retaliate. He has no selfish purposes. He has but one supreme purpose and object: that is to secure the eternal well-being and happiness of the whole human race.
Finally our knowledge of God should include a knowledge of His will. We must know, in general terms at least, what His desire for us is, that we may go forward to our true goal. We read, “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” We must look to the Lord for instruction. Without this constant guidance we may believe that there is a God, that He is merciful and gracious and exercises judgment in the earth, but we shall not know what our own object in life is. We need to learn the Lord’s precepts. “Through thy precepts I get understanding.” His precepts convey His will, as they are the laws of His own life. It is only through learning and keeping His precepts that our prayer can be fulfilled: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so upon the earth.”
In His Word the Lord has given us an inexhaustible fountain of truth concerning Himself, His nature, His purposes, and His will for us.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”