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is more than all acts and forms and observances of religion. It is religion itself. This acknowledgment of God is the soul beholding Him, worshipping Him, yielding to Him, gladly trusting Him, loving Him, and by every work and duty of practical obedience fulfilling His will.
This; nothing less. Not the pepper-corn rent for the field of life. Not the once a year pausing at the gate which, perhaps, sickness has shut, to acknowledge the ownership of another, and then as soon as the gate is open going in as if the whole estate belonged to himself. The language here is entire, comprehensive, searching, complete. “In ALL thy ways,” this is one of those expressions which go searching through life, like a lighted candle looking into every part of it. Or it is like the coming of the master himself into the fields owned for a little, or wrought in, by the servant, and saying, as he looks over them in succession, “ This, and this, and this is mine; occupy here, and here, and here, till I come.” “In all our ways,” says one, “that prove direct and fair and pleasant, in which we gain our point to our satisfaction, we must acknowledge God with thankfulness. In all our ways that prove cross and uncomfortable, and that are hedged up with thoms, we must acknowledge God with submission. To Him we must in everything make our requests known as Jepthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh.”
But, indeed, that large two-fold division of life, although it helps us a little, still leaves us with a sense of vagueness. We do not get by it the sharpness, clearness, beauty of the text. “In all thy ways." Their name is legion. Who can number them. A man's way is one through life and yet endlessly manifold. There are hundreds of “ways” in, or connected with the onerunning out of it, into it, around it, through it—ways of the body and ways of the mind, ways of the senses, ways of the faculties, ways of the feelings. There are ways of the mind in seeking after truth: acknowledge God in these ; and ways of the heart as it yearns for love and rest and home. Surely acknowledge Him in these. And there are ways of the imagination as it wanders out, and soars upwards, apparently without a law beyond suggestion, or mood, or chance : acknowledge God in these. And there are ways of the feet as you know, through city streets, and up and down staircases, and into places of trade : acknowledge Him in them. And there are ways of the tongue when you talk with other men and bargain, and promise. And there are ways of the pen when you speak to men in distant cities, and receive their answer by the flying post. And there are home ways: how many, how pleasant, sometimes how difficult, sometimes how bitter and sorrowful ! Ways of education for the children, for their guidance and settlement in life. Ways of friendship with friends, of co-operation with fellow-workers. Ways: of rapid enterprize where much gain is looked for soon. Or ways of slow, patient toil where the fruit is expected only after many years.
A man's ways! Why they are like the hairs of his head, or like the sand on the shore for number, and the injunction is that he is to acknowledge God in them all. “ In them all.” That is the injunction. And perhaps you will say “It never can be fulfilled.” Yes it can, else it never would have been given. We do not mean by this, of course, that a man is to go every day and give God an invoice of his circumstances, putting everything in its exact place, assigning to everything its precise importance. He could not. If he could, such particularity would be to the last degree unprofitable. It would be neglecting his duty by talking about it instead of doing it. Some of those ways to which we have made slight allusion, are so subtle, so rapid, so transient, that they live and die before the man knows he has been in them-and yet he may have acknowledged God in them all. He may, so to speak, have prevented himself and all his ways, by a mood of piety, submission, obedience—by a habit of looking upwards in all things, and lifting the lower things to link them on to the higher-by a prayer which never ceases, which runs on from day to day, from year to year, until it ends in heavenly, eternal praise.
This is the best acknowledgment of all. This deep heart-feeling of dependence which underlies the whole of life, and which shows itself now and again in particular acts of life and moods of mind, not because it happens to be there, but because it is everywhere.
We are speaking of this thing as an injunction, because it does meet us here in the form of a command. But, in fact, it is a privilege, far more than a duty. Let us try to put it so. Not “I must,” but“ I may.” Not“I must at my peril.” But “I may to my great joy and help.” “I may bring my whole life before God in one continued act of faith and consecration, and go through its scenes as beneath His eye. I may have consecration on the commonest things, and divine wisdom working in the simplest scenes, and daily needs supplied by daily helps. And then I may come where the scenes of my life are far more perplexed, and my needs are far deeper: “where it rains and the rain is never ceasing, and the day is cold and dark and dreary.” When my soul is exceeding sorrowful, I may come then quite into His presence with every burden, with every fear, and acknowledging Him with a filial love and trust, roll every burden on His merciful providence, and depose every fear at his feet-not doubting that He will hear me when I call, and answer me when
I ask, and keep His own promise, which stands annexed to the injunction for ever, “He shall direct thy paths.”
We come now lastly to what the text promises—a sure, safe, sufficient “ direction " to all who make sincere and due "acknowledgment” of Him. How? Not by a living audible voice saying, “ This is the way, walk ye in it.” Not by a dream, as when Joseph was directed into Egypt with the infant Saviour. Not by a vision of the night, as when Paul saw the man of Macedonia beckoning him over to their help. God could use these things now if He chose. He could speak to any one of His servants, at any time and place, so that he should hear His voice just as if it were the voice of a man. He could touch the brain so delicately, as to make the warning, guiding dream. He could fill the silent dark room with the glory of the night vision. There is no proof from the Scriptures that God has ceased to do these things—there is only the lack of proof in history and experience that He is really doing them.
Nor is the probability very strong that He will never do them again. If need be he will. What glory of Divine working there may be in the future none of us can tell. But, meantime, there are no such supernatural directions given, simply because they are not needed. The ordinary, or what we call the ordinary, directions are amply sufficient. The Bible; the providence of life interpreted by the Bible; conscience acting in conformity with both. These will take a man in safety, and in moral triumph through life to immortality.
The Bible—that lamp lit long ago is burning still, more brightly now than aforetime. There is more wick to it, and more oil in the vessel with the lamp, than when it shone on David's path. It was a much smaller lamp then, and yet it served him well, whether he sat on the throne, or led the army to the field, or fled from cave to cave in the wilderness of Judah. It is still, and more now than then, “a lamp and light in the dark night” to multitudes of pilgrims who are going through the wilderness to the city.
There is no need to pause here to show that the Bible does open a particular path in which all God's children walk. There is a general common way which they all take. There are certain principles and dispositions of an ethical kind clearly revealed and enforced in the Scriptures, which all must adopt alike who would be the children of God-principles of truth, justice, temperance, benevolence. Anyone neglecting these or violating these is not in the way at all. He is making no acknowledgment of God, and is under no Divine direction, although perfectly subject still to Divine control. And so the moral character of life is settled in the man. And that is the glory of a human life : its moral character, not its circumstances—when a man is lifted in principle and spirit above falsehood, and duplicity, and meanness, and impunity, and self-seeking. When, in one word, he is a follower of Jesus, and willingly obedient to the laws of His blessed kingdom-His life in the man is settled. His path may be here or there. His fortune may be this or that. But he is superior to all circumstances. His life is hid with Christ in God.. .
And yet circumstances are of some importance—of very great importance in their own place and way. It is very important that a Christian man should be preserved from mistakes and unnecessary misfortunes and miscarriages. Very important that his life should be plain and clear, and open, and honest, and sincere, and without offence.
And here it is, that God's providential direction comes in. After the man is in the way of life, after his character is formed; after he has got his great principles of action which he carries with him everywhere, and applies more or less to every thing—then there arises the providential indication, or inducement, or confirmation. Some people seem to have a very different idea of Providence from this. They virtually make it a Bible, and they themselves are the inspired interpreters. It means what they wish it to mean. It is a convenient machine for opening doors of opportunity—for giving good chances. It is like the old lying prophets in Israel who would say just what a wicked or believing king wished them to say. This is not the true just providence of God. It is the misbegotten, baseless, visionary providence of godless men.
But there is, for all that, a providence of God to the godly man. When he guides himself spiritually and morally by Christ and the laws of His kingdom, then there is the added guidance of circumstances and events. The sudden change—the quick interposition—the seasonable advice—the opinions of friendsthe shadows of the coming events ; a death, a marriage, a birth, an opportunity, a letter, a visit. Any of these things—a hundred other things—are God's fingers, God's voices to a'devout soul saying, “ This is the way, walk ye in it.”
Then we say, moreover, that, for direction to the good man, there is a rectified susceptible conscience, using Bible, using Providence, and giving them both a just and fair interpretation. That conscience is kept tender and true by the indwelling of the Holy
Spirit. He, the great Revealer, takes of the things of Christtakes of the things of present actual life, and shows them unto the mind. And shows the way and the duty continually.
And thus, as the result, we have, to a good man who acknowledges God in all his ways, a perfect providential direction. The great thing is to preserve and maintain the spirit of devout acknowledgment of God. The direction will be accordingly. I believe, in exact proportion. If a man will not, so to speak, take God into his confidence, nor enter filially into the confidence of God ; if he will keep some things in his own hands ; if he will try this and that in his own strength—and work his way through scenes of perplexity, simply by the light of his own wisdom, surely such a man cannot expect that God will make a plain path for him, and give him a very clear and evident direction. He is trying to work out that old problem, “How to serve God and mammon,” with exactly the same results as they have who serve God alone. And anyone can tell what the issue will be. But let a man be a child indeed. Let him live the single simple life, and keep the open trustful heart—and cultivate the prayerful habit—and lay all his matters down in the light of his Father's face and love ; and the path for that man's feet is made. He may be wise, but he does not need wisdom ; he is led of the wisdom of God. He may be strong, but it is the everlasting strength that upholds him. Angels have charge of him, and bear him up in their hands. The Shepherd who never lost a sheep is saying all day long, “He shall never perish.” The glorified are stretching out their hands in welcome, because they see he is coming right up into their company. And the merciful Father of all, will ere long receive him, joyfully, to eternal rest and home.
RITUALISM AND THE BISHOPS.
To us there is something inexplicable in the tenacity with which men of a certain calibre of mind and particular style of education and association cling to their faith in the Bishops. Whatever danger threatens the Church, whether from internal heresy or