He Knows His Own
In a certain sense, God knows all men. Yet there is another sense, in which he does not know any but his own redeemed people. Our Lord represents himself as saying to the wicked on the Judgment-day, "I never knew you!" And to the five foolish virgins who came too late, the answer from within is, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you!"
There is, then, a peculiar sense in which he knows his own redeemed people — and does not know the lost world.
He knows them by their faith. A poor woman came timidly behind him in the great throng, tremblingly reached out her thin, wasted hand — and touched but the fringe on the border of his garment. Turning quickly about, he asked, "Who touched me?" It seemed a strange question to ask, when the unmannerly crowd were treading with crude feet upon his robe, and elbowing him on every side. One of his disciples said to him, "Why, Master, the multitudes are jostling against you. Why do you ask — Who touched me?"
Ah! There was one touch different from all the jostlings of the crowd. It was the touch of faith. There was a heart's cry in it. And though it was only the fingertip of a poor, despised woman — Jesus knew it amid all the crude elbowings of the crowd.
He is on his throne of glory now. All about his feet are throngs of holy angels. Yet his heart is sensitive to the feeblest touch of faith among all the millions of the earth. There are believing ones hidden away from the eye of the world. No church-roll carries their names. No pastor visits them. No minister breaks the bread or pours out the wine for them. Yet the Lord knows them. He hears their cries. They are dear to him. His angels encamp around them. Not one of them is forgotten by him.
The Lord knows his own — by the image they wear. Every one of them bears the features of the Redeemer on his heart. These features may be very faint and shadowy. They may be covered up and almost hidden beneath the coatings of earthliness and sin which overlay them. But yet they are there.
The diamond when found, is covered with a thick crust of worthless matter — but the skilled miner knows that under its rough exterior, a brilliant gem lies imprisoned. So God knows where his jewels are.
When the father saw his son coming, he knew him afar off. He had gone away wearing beautiful garments, with the flush of youth upon his cheek, with purity in his eye, with sweetness in his face. He came back in miserable beggar's rags, his features haggard from hunger, his beauty stained and blackened by the polluted waters of sin. But the father knew him. There was something under his rags and filth — beneath his stained features — shining out from the wrecks and ruins of his manhood, which revealed to him his long-lost child.
In the same way, the eye of God sees, under all the rags, beggary, and imperfection of our lives — shining out, perhaps, in dimmest beauty, yet unmistakably, the image of his Son. He knows every one who bears the faintest trace of divine beauty. He knows his own, though they wear only poorest rags.
He knows his own by their lives. Grace does not lie like a piece of hidden gold in the bosom. It is like leaven, which leavens the whole lump. It is a seed, small at first and growing secretly; but it shoots up into a tree and puts forth branches and bears fruits. Piety permeates the whole of a man's being. Life witnesses to the genuineness of conversion.
Jacob deceived his blind father by putting on hairy robes — but God cannot be deceived. He knows the white garments which his children wear. He knows the branch — by the fruit which hangs upon it. He knows his friends — by their obedience. He knows his disciples — by their following wherever he leads. He knows the penitent heart — by the holy fragrance which it breathes forth. It is a broken heart, a sacrifice which is well-pleasing to him. It is an altar of incense. It is a box of precious ointment broken open. As we find out the hiding-places of flowers or of perfumes, by their fragrance — so God knows the home of the penitent heart, by the sweetness which floats up from it.
And he knows the life of faith — by the beautiful graces which adorn it, and by the gentle and holy ministries of love which are wrought by its hands. There are multitudes of lowly lives lived on the earth which have no name among men, whose work no one ever records, but which are well known and unspeakably dear to God. They make no noise in the world — but it does not need noise, to make a life beautiful and noble.
Many of God's most potent ministries are noiseless. How silently the sunbeams fall all day long upon the fields and gardens, and yet what joy, cheer, and life they diffuse! How silently the flowers bloom, and yet what sweet fragrance they emit! How silently the stars move on in their grand marches around God's throne — and yet they are worlds of suns! How silently God's angels work, stepping with noiseless tread through our homes, and performing ever their blessed ministries about us! Who hears the flutter of their wings, or the faintest whispers of their tongues? And yet we know that they hover over us and move about us continually.
In the same way, Christ has many lowly earthly servants who work so quietly that they are never known among men as workers — whom he writes down among his noblest ministers. They do no great things — but they are blessings, perhaps unconsciously, wherever they go.
It is said that when Thorwaldsen returned to his native land with those wonderful works of art which have made his name immortal, chiseled with patient toil and glowing inspiration, in Italy — the servants who unpacked them, scattered upon the ground the straw which was wrapped around them. The next summer, flowers from the gardens in Rome were blooming in the streets of Copenhagen, from the seeds thus borne and planted by accident.
In the same way, Christ's lowly workers unconsciously bless the world. They come out every morning from the presence of God, and go to their work. All day long as they toil, they drop gentle words from their lips, and scatter little seeds of kindness around them. And tomorrow, flowers from the garden of God spring up in the dusty streets of earth, and along the hard paths of toil on which their feet tread. They have no distinction among men, but the Lord knows them to be his — by the beauty and usefulness of their lives.
He knows his own by their voice.
A little girl sat long on her mother's knee in silence, and then said, in a low, musing tone, "When I say my prayers, God says: Harken, angels — while I listen to a little voice!"
Her mother asked, "What voice?"
"A little girl's voice," she replied. "Then the angels will close their lips and hush their songs, and keep very still until I say, Amen."
What a sweet truth lies in the child's beautiful imagination! Up amid all the oceans of angel song — comes to God's ear every redeemed child's prayer, every soft sigh, every prisoner's groan. There is never too much singing, nor too many harps resounding in Heaven for God to hear "a little girl's voice."
He knows every voice of his own. He recognizes the first faint expressions of the new life. Every murmur of prayer, every silent wish, every faith-winged sigh, every breathing of love — he knows, and bends his ear to catch, saying, "Harken! That is the voice of one of my children!"
He will know his own — when they enter the eternal world.
It was a grand day. The general in command had risen from the ranks. It was a humble home in which he and his widowed mother lived. Today high honors were his. He stood amid his officers.
Down across the plain comes a soldier leading a humble woman. Her garb was poor. Her features told of care — and her hands of toil. She wore no costly ornaments, nor any bright jewels.
But the moment the general saw her, he leaped from his horse and ran to meet her. He took her in his arms. He introduced her to his officers. He led her everywhere with joyful pride. It was his mother! In all his greatness and splendor, he was not ashamed to confess her in the presence of all his officers.
In the same way, the glorious Christ will greet the lowliest of his disciples when they reach the end. He will not be ashamed of them — though they come up to Heaven out of the darkest alley in the great city, out of the deepest poverty and beggary, or from the wards of an hospital or a poorhouse. He will come down from his throne to welcome them. He will own them before all the heavenly ranks as his friends, for he said, "Whoever shall confess me before men — him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God."
He is not ashamed to call us brethren now — and he will not be ashamed to own us on the streets of gold. No disciple of Christ will roam for a moment unrecognized on the heavenly shores. He knows his own!