“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever,” by Louis A. Dole

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“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” – Deuteronomy 29:29

Readings

Deuteronomy 29:10-29 · Luke 14:1-14 · Psalm 14

Sermon

The course of history is determined by the ideas which men hold and carry out into life. There are various systems of thought seeking control in the world. Socialism, Communism, Pacifism, and so on, together with the various religions, are such systems of thought. Each claims to seek the common welfare. With the exception of the religions, however, none look to a power outside of man himself.

We cannot get along without knowledge. We need to know the nature of the world and the meaning of life. And if we are to be inwardly at peace, our thoughts must be harmonious. There are conflicts in ourselves, as well as in the world in which we live. The forces which have divided men are at work in us, and unless we can subordinate them to some unifying principle, they will work havoc in our lives.

This need has existed from the beginning and the Lord has provided for it. He has progressively revealed His Word as men were able to receive it. While this revelation was yet in progress, many things were but partially made known which afterwards were more plainly revealed. Revelation has been sufficient to meet the needs of every age.

While the great event of the Lord’s incarnation and the light which it shed into the world were yet in the future, Moses could not be seen without the veil upon his face, nor could the later prophets be perceived more clearly, since upon the glory of revealed truth the Lord had placed a covering, This obscurity is not confined to the Old Testament, but extends also to the New. What is revealed in the Gospels and in the Apocalypse respecting the future states of the first Christian Church and the Second Coming of the Lord has been as little understood by Christians as the predictions of Moses and the prophets were by the Jews, and it can now be clearly discerned only because the events predicted have taken place and the meaning of the prophecies has been disclosed. These things, with the spiritual sense of the Word whose opening accompanied and reveals the Second Coming of the Lord, are secrets of revelation itself, which time discloses. There are, however, secrets which have no place in revelation.

In His Word the Lord reveals to us that He is ever present with us, withholding us from evil and leading us by innumerable means to goodness and to heaven; but he at the same time entirely withholds from us all conscious knowledge of His presence and operation. We know that the Lord is with us, but we feel as if we were alone. We know that He inspires our every good affection and thought, yet we feel as if we ourselves produced them. We know that without Him we can do nothing, yet we feel that every bodily and mental act is our own. The combination in this instance of the secret and the revealed is grounded in the profoundest wisdom. By the revealed truth on this subject we are enabled to see with the understanding and to acknowledge with the heart that the Lord is the all in all. This makes it possible for us to have a sense of our entire dependence upon Him, and the conviction that in Him we live and move and have our being. At the same time, by having no consciousness of the power by which we are upheld and led, our rationality and liberty are preserved inviolate, and we are better able to realize the Lord’s purpose in revealing and concealing His saving operation, that we may with freedom and delight “do all the words of this law.”

In the Gospels the Lord tells us that we are potential children of our Heavenly Father, privileged to share in His work. He tells us that we are meant to live as members of one family, meant to live in brotherhood, in helpfulness to each other. He tells us that the way to realize our sonship and brotherhood is to surrender our wills to His. He tells us finally that the result of this surrender will be to free us from the obstacles and limitations which now hamper and thwart us, both the outward obstacles which others put in our way and the inward limitations which we find in ourselves. And when He tells us that we must become as little children if we would enter the kingdom of heaven, He warns us against the isolation which pride always brings, and reminds us that humility is not only the key to knowledge but the condition of all true brotherhood.

The most injurious effects would result from a manifest perception of the Divine presence and operation. If we had a sensible perception of life inflowing from the Lord, we should lose our sense of individuality and become mere automatons. And even if some sense of our individuality happened still to remain, we should be deprived of all true free will and reason. This is one of the secret things that belong unto God, and the fact that it is secret discloses to us that we are under the care of One who has created us for happiness, and how wisely He has provided the conditions for securing it.

By revelation the Lord has made known to us that we are subjects of an ever-watchful and overruling Providence, to which all the future is present. The past and the present are ours; the future belongs and is known to the Lord alone.

The desire which, in all ages, men have manifested, and the efforts they have made to lift the veil that conceals the future and to enter the sanctuary where the Lord dwells “in thick darkness” indicate a desire to be as gods and to usurp the Divine prerogative of knowing the good and evil of the future, and to use this knowledge in determining the events of life. All such attempts to acquire the secrets of the future have concealed within them a desire to anticipate and to forestall the Divine Providence, and a forsaking of the Word of Life, the only true source of knowledge.

The desire to penetrate into the future is a sign of folly as well as of impiety. To know with certainty any of the agreeable and prosperous events of our future life would remove all motives to action, destroy the freedom of the will, suspend the proper functions of the understanding, and render experience and revelation useless. Hope and truth would fail, and life and labor would become more irksome and oppressive than those of the most cruel and hopeless slavery. If, on the other hand, the future disappointments, losses, and bereavements of life should be opened to our view, every calamity would become a permanent instead of a temporary affliction. The strength needed to meet the event would be more than expended in the anticipation. The Lord has taken this care upon Himself, placing it under the circumspection of His infinite wisdom and so not leaving us to the direction of our own finite and imperfect intelligence.

And particularly the goodness and wisdom of the Lord is revealed in His withholding from us the knowledge of the time when our work here will be finished. Revelation declares and experience testifies that it is appointed to all men once to die, but the Lord has mercifully concealed from us the time of our departure. Not that death is a calamity, for life goes on in a higher world to eternity. But in withholding knowledge of the time of our passing, the Lord has provided for us an important means of improvement and happiness. By the knowledge of our mortality we are reminded that this world is not our home; by our ignorance of the term of our probation we are left in a state of liberty to prepare for another and better one. The knowledge that life goes on after death and ignorance of the time of our departure from this world hold before us the inducement not to put off repentance. Yet even this is not the basic purpose of the withholding of this knowledge. No change of heart can take place in a state of fear, especially that fear which arises from the thought of imminent death. For then the mind is not free. We must use our liberty while we possess it and our reason while it is calm.

We have entered upon another year. We should be able on looking back to see something of the Lord’s loving providence over us in the past. We should also look forward to the future with greater assurance. All that the Lord requires of us to insure His blessing is to do His commandments, putting away all desire to know more than He sees best to reveal to us.

“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Amen

Read the original sermon in PDF format

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