A True Knowledge of God
Preached at Brighton, 1857 – By John Vinall
“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
(2 Timothy 1:12)
FOR forty-five years that I have preached among you, I have never come forward under such embarrassment as I do at the present time. There is a cause and an end to be answered in every dispensation. “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” God plunged him into depths of affliction, both inwardly and outwardly. “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, And riches upon the storm.”
I am brought to know something of the deceitfullness of my heart. The true knowledge of ourselves brings us to the true knowledge of Christ. I know that I am a fool. It is not every fool that has this knowledge. I did not feel this embarrassment until I came here this afternoon. One text brought it on. One word will cut you through. This text came to me this afternoon. “Christ the Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5:7,8) I know there is bitterness amongst us, and this word cut me through and through, as we are about to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Ask your own consciences as in the sight of a heart-searching God. If you say you are not guilty, I am afraid of you. “I know whom I have believed;” that is, I know the object, the Lord Jesus Christ, to suit me. Paul saw an altar at Athens “To the unknown God.” You may not see him, but not to know him is not to have any trust in him. You may be worshipping like the heathen, if you don’t know the object of your faith. “They that know thy name will put their trust in thee.” (Ps. 9:10) What knowledge is this? “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:11,12) “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah….I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. 31:31,33) Ask yourselves this question, Have I this knowledge of God? Don’t say you have if you have not. What is meant by knowing God? Paul says, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in him…That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Phil. 3:7-10) “Not as though I had already attained,” (Phil. 3:12) etc. He wanted an increasing knowledge of Jesus Christ. “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18) Do you know enough? If so, I cannot join with you. I am foolish and ignorant. I have known the Lord fifty-four years, and yet I am as a beast before him. I want to know more of him. “They shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest of them.” There is in this a knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins–a knowledge of the pardon of sin brought home to the heart. “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much. “This text once lifted me up, and brought a sweet sense of the pardon of sin when I was much cast down, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” (Isa. 1:18) Then the Lord shed such a sweet sense of his love into my heart, that I said, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” “He that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (1 John 4:7) Has God ever removed sensibly the guilt and burden of sin from your conscience? Have you ever had a knowledge of God in removing your sin? Then you know that you love Christ. “The upright love God,” and “The upright shall dwell in his presence.” You cannot get any real consolation until you are brought here. The first act is being delivered from the state of death. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:27,28) David says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for thy word hath quickened me.” (Ps. 119:50) If you have not this quickening you are still dead. This is personal work. If you can live contented without a personal knowledge of Christ, your religion is worth nothing. This will be attended with the sealing and earnest of the Spirit in your hearts. Get the earnest, and the inheritance is sure. “Yes, I to the end shall endure, As sure as the earnest is giv’n, More happy, but not more secure, The glorified spirits in heav’n.”
This is the mystery of true religion. I know Christ–he has manifested his precious love to my soul. Mr. Jenkins once preached from these words, “That which ye have already hold fast till I come.” And this I hope the Lord will enable me to do. Job said, “O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave.” That is my language, but the best expression is this, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come.” To have a true knowledge of Christ will be attended with the witness of the Holy Ghost. “In whom also after that ye believed ye were sealed with that holy spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” (Eph. 1:13,14) Our safety is in his knowing us, but our comfort is in our knowing him. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his.” (2 Tim. 2:19) “I am persuaded” through faith. That is a living principle. “True faith’s the life of God; Deep in the heart it lies; It lives and labours under load; Though dampt, it never dies.”
This is implanted in regeneration. All the graces are then implanted. This persuasion is explained in Rom. 8, and Paul says, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is real faith. Now as to committing. “Into thine hands I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” It is committing something into the hands of another. You entrust your money with your bankers. What did you commit to the Lord? This is the sweetness of religion. “Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” The child of God himself is committed to him. Give yourself to him. He has first given himself to us. Then in due time you will commit yourself to him. Have you ever known that moment when you have unfeignedly given yourself to Christ, body, soul, and spirit? I hope to do as Stephen did, when I die, and say, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” It is as supernatural act. If you can come into this, you need not fear death. When a woman marries she is no longer her own. So it is with us, when we commit ourself to Christ. It is put in the margin, 1 Peter 2:23, “Committed his cause.” If I am not mistaken I have committed my cause into God’s hands. The Lord will certainly take up the cause of his children. Micah says, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, (was that a good cause?) until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me.” “Thus saith thy Lord, the Lord and thy God, that pleadeth the cause of his people.” If God waited for a good cause to plead, he would never plead mine. Jeremiah says “O Lord, thou hast pleaded the cause of my soul.” When I look back fifty-four years, through all the opposition that has been made against me, I can say that no weapon ever formed against me has prospered, because God has set his love upon me. There is a pleading of the Lord’s works. “Trust in the Lord and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” Here is a committing of things into God’s hands. You will first commit your person to him, and then your cause. We have nothing to do but, like Manoah and his wife, to look on while the angel did wondrously. Christ has done all for us. This is a humble committing of ourselves into his hands, and it is the essence of religion “to look on.” “Be still and know that I am God.” “My Jesus has done all things well.” Whatever we are enabled by true and living faith to commit into his hands he will take care of, whether it is our family or anything else. Sometimes a man commits a matter to a friend, or a cause to his lawyer or councellor, and then he says, I leave it in his hands and have done with it myself; and so feels relieved. How much more when this is done to the Lord? “Against that day.” Dr. Gill says this comprises three days–the day of death; the resurrection day; and the day of judgment. May the Lord enable us humbly, heartily, and sincerely to commit ourselves unto him.