Knowing Little of God

In his work The Mortification of Sin Puritan John Owen outlines nine directions to help believers in their struggles with sin. The eighth involves meditating on those things that will always result in our humility and awareness of sin. This involves meditating not only on the excellencies and majesty of God, but especially on how little we really know of God.

We know so little of God because it is God we are seeking to know. God Himself has revealed Himself as one who cannot be known. He calls Himself invisible, incomprehensible, and the like. We cannot fully know Him as He is. Our progress often consists more in knowing what He is not, than what He is. He is immortal and infinite and we are only mortal, finite, and limited.

That is truly something to think about! 


The Self-Existence of God

O self-existent One in Three,
Jehovah, God alone,
In glory wrapt, invisible,
By revelation known!

Incomprehensible Thou art,
And all research is vain;
Nor even can the wise in heart
The mystery explain.

Yet does thy holy word declare,
That we may learn thy name—
That they who worship Thee in truth
Thy praises shall proclaim.

Then teach us, Lord, thy name of love,
By revelation known;
Hail, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord,
Jehovah, God alone.


The Holiness of God

“And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory,” Isaiah 6:3

Holy and reverend is the name
Of our eternal King;
Thrice holy Lord! the angels cry,
Thrice holy, let us sing.

Heaven’s brightest lamps with him compared
How mean thy look and dim!
The fairest angels have their spots
When once compared with him.

Holy is he in all his works,
And truth is his delight;
But sinners and their wicked ways
Shall perish from his sight.

The deepest reverence of the mind,
Pay, O my soul to God;
Lift with thy hands a holy heart
To his sublime abode.

With sacred awe pronounce his name,
Whom words nor thoughts can reach;
A broken heart shall please him more
Than the best forms of speech.

Thou, holy God, preserve my soul
From all pollution free;
The pure in heart are thy delight,
And they thy face shall see.

John Needham (1686-1786)

The Mercy of God

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, Psalm 89:1

Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart, and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections and bound my soul fast.

Without thy free mercy I could not live here,
Sin soon would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And he that first made me, still keeps me alive.

Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I found.

The door of thy mercy stands open all day,
To the needy and poor, who knock by the way;
No sinner shall ever be empty sent back,
Who comes seeking mercy for Jesus’ dear sake.

Thy mercy in Jesus exempts me from hell;
Its glories I’ll sing, and its wonders I’ll tell:
‘Twas Jesus the friend when he hung on the tree,
That opened the channel of mercy for me.

Great Father of mercies, thy goodness I own,
And covenant love of thy crucified Son:
All praise to the Spirit, whose action divine,
Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine.

–John Stocker

The Loving-Kindness of the Redeemer

“I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses” Isaiah 63:7

Awake, my soul, to joyful lays,
And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise;
He justly claims a song from me,
His loving-kindness O how free!

He saw me ruined in the fall,
Yet loved me, notwithstanding all;
He saved me from my lost estate;
His loving-kindness O how great!

Though numerous hosts of mighty foes,
Though earth and hell my way oppose,
He safely leads my soul along,
His loving-kindness O how strong!

When trouble, like a gloomy cloud,
Has gathered thick, and thundered loud,
He near my soul has always stood,
His loving-kindness O how good!

Often I feel my sinful heart
Prone from my Jesus to depart;
But though I have him oft forgot,
His loving-kindness changes not.

Soon shall I pass the gloomy vale,
Soon all my mortal powers must fail;
O! may my last expiring breath
His loving-kindness sing in death.

Then let me mount and soar away,
To the bright world of endless day,
And sing with rapture and surprise,
His loving-kindness in the skies.

Samuel Medley (1738-1799)

The Unsearchable Wisdom of God

Wait, O my soul, thy maker’s will,
Tumultuous passions all be still!
Nor let a murmuring thought arise,
His ways are just, his counsels wise.

He in the thickest darkness dwells,
Performs his work, the cause conceals;
But though his methods are unknown,
Judgment and truth support his throne.

In heaven, and earth, and air, and seas,
He executes his firm decrees;
And by his saints it stands confessed,
That what he does is ever best.

Wait then, my soul, submissive wait,
Prostrate before his awful seat;
And ‘midst the terrors of his rod,
Trust in a wise and gracious God.

–Benjamin Beddome (1717-1795)

God’s Dominion and Decrees

This hymn might be hard for some to swallow as God’s absolute sovereignty is explicitly set forth. Many believe that God has imposed upon Himself limited sovereignty (a misnomer if there ever was one) so that finite and sinful man can exercise his own will. Such will therefore express considerable angst at the truths of this hymn.

I would urge such to consider the fourth paragraph of Orwell Bible Church’s doctrinal statement on God. Also, the hymnal I read this hymn from owed it’s origin to the “happy revival of religion in many towns in New England” in the late 17th century. These hymns that I have been posting were compiled for the benefit of such believers. I pray that our great God would graciously help believers to have a right view of Him.

Keep silence all created things,
And wait your Maker’s nod:
My soul stands trembling, while she sings
The honors of her God.

Life, death, and hell, and worlds unknown,
Hang on his firm decree:
He sits on no precarious throne,
Nor borrows leave to be.

Chained to his throne, a volume lies,
With all the fates of men,
With every angel’s form and size,
Drawn by th’ eternal pen.

His providence unfolds the book,
And makes his counsels shine;
Each opening leaf, and every stroke,
Fulfills some deep design.

Here, he exalts neglected worms
To scepters and a crown;
And there, the following page he turns,
And treads the monarch down.

Not Gabriel asks the reason why,
Nor God, the reason gives;
Nor dares the favorite angel pry
Between the folded leaves.

My God, I would not long to see
My fate with curious eyes,
What gloomy lines are writ for me,
Or what bright scenes may rise.

In thy fair book of life and grace
O may I find my name,
Recorded in some humble place
Beneath my Lord the lamb!

–Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

The Omnipresence and Omniscience of God

Lord, thou with an unerring beam
Surveyest all my powers;
My rising steps are watched by thee,
By thee, my resting hours.

My thoughts, scarce struggling into birth,
Great God, are known to thee;
Abroad, at home, still I’m enclosed
With thine immensity.

To thee the labyrinths of life
In open view appear;
Nor steals a whisper from my lips
Without thy listening ear.

Behind I glance, and thou art there;
Before me shines thy name;
And ’tis thy strong almighty hand
Sustains my tender frame,

Such knowledge mocks the vain essays
O my astonished mind;
Nor can my reason’s soaring eye
Its towering summit find.

Where from thy Spirit shall I stretch
The pinions of my flight?
Or where, thro’ nature’s spacious range,
Shall I elude thy sight?

Thither thine hand, all-present God,
Must guide the wondrous way,
And thine omnipotence support
The fabric of my clay.

The beams of noon, the midnight hour
Are both alike to thee:
O may I ne’er provoke that power,
From which I cannot flee!

–Thomas Blacklock (1721-1791)

The Infinite God

Thy names, how infinite they be!
Great Everlasting one!
Boundless thy might and majesty,
And unconfined thy throne.

Thy glories shine of wondrous size,
And wondrous large thy grace:
Immortal day breaks from thine eyes,
And Gabriel veils his face.

Thine essence is a vast abyss,
Which angels cannot sound,
An ocean of infinites,
Where all our thoughts are drowned.

Thy mysteries of creation lie
Beneath enlightened minds;
Thoughts can ascend above the sky,
And fly before the winds.

Reason may grasp the massy hills,
And stretch from pole to pole,
But half thy name our spirit fills,
And overloads our soul.

In vain our haughty reason swells,
For nothing’s found in thee
But boundless inconceivables,
And vast eternity.

–Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

God’s Eternity and Man’s Mortality

“So teach us to number our days,
that we may present to You a heart of wisdom”
Psalm 90:12

Lord, thou hast been thy children’s God,
All-powerful, wise and good, and just,
In every age their safe abode,
Their hope, their refuge, and their trust,

Before thy word gave nature birth,
Or spread the starry heavens abroad,
Or formed the varied face of earth,
From everlasting thou art God.

Great father of eternity,
How short are ages in thy sight!
A thousand years, how swift they fly,
Like one short silent watch of night!

Uncertain life, how soon it flies!
Dream of an hour, how short our bloom!
Like spring’s gay verdure now we rise,
Cut down ere night to fill the tomb.

Teach us to count our shortening days,
And with true diligence apply
Our hearts to wisdom’s sacred ways,
That we may learn to live and die.

–Anne Steele (1717-1778)