By Horatius Bonar
"They that understand among the people shall instruct many." -- Daniel 11:33
WE do not receive knowledge for ourselves alone. We must share it with others. Like our High Priest, we must "have compassion on the ignorant," and must remember Him who said, "Learn of me."
In the days here spoken of by Daniel there shall be some, it is said, "who do know their God" (ver. 32). These are "they that understand"; for it is the knowledge of God that is alone accounted understanding in the Bible. He who knows God is a man of understanding, he who knows Him not is "void of understanding,"--"a fool." For this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.
They that have understanding are evidently few. They are described as "among the people," as if they were a light in a dark place; a few who are of God, while the whole world lieth in wickedness. "Not many wise" are called, is the law of this age; nay, not many of the world who become wise. To be wise in Christ is the privilege of few; in order to this they must become "fools,"--fools in the eye of men,--"fools that they may be wise," for the wisdom of God is foolishness with men. It is a great thing to know God,--to understand the things of God. Happy they who thus know and understand.
Taking these words as applicable to every Christian man and woman, let us see what they teach us.
I. A Christian is one among the people. He is in the world, but not of it. He has been delivered out of it. He is of the same stock as the rest of mankind, just one of the people, one of Adam's race. He is one of a small band, not one of a multitude; one of those of whom our Lord spake when he said, "Few there be that find it." He was born of the flesh before he was born of the spirit; he bore the image of the earthly before he bore the image of the heavenly.
II. He is one that has understanding. It is this that specially marks him out from "the people." He knows what they know not. He has come to be of an understanding heart. He may not have much of earthly literature or human science, but he knows God; not only knows about him, but knows him. He has not much to say for himself save this, that he knows God. The special distinctiveness of a Christian is that he is a man of understanding. He may be poor, obscure, unlearned, untravelled, yet he understands what millions understand not. He may not know the world and its wonders, but he knows Him who made all these, he knows His greatness and His love.
III. A Christian is one who does not keep his knowledge to himself. He is not proud because he knows what others know not. He pities others, and longs to share his treasures; not to divide his inheritance, for that is impossible, but to impart what he possesses. He gives, yet he retains; he shares, yet he is none the poorer. He has got a loving and unselfish heart as well as an understanding one. He becomes a liberal giver of what God has given. He is like the clouds, which cannot contain their water within themselves; like the sun, which cannot but shine; like the river, which cannot but scatter fertility; like the flower, which cannot but dispense fragrance.
A Christian is an instructor. He has been taught, and he becomes a teacher. He has found the preciousness of knowledge and he seeks to impart it. He feels that what he formerly needed so much was teaching, that what the world still needs is teaching, and so he becomes a teacher. Not as if setting up for superior powers or knowledge, but simply as one who has had a treasure imparted to him, and who therefore longs to impart to his poorer fellow-creatures his divine gold and silver. He sees that the great need of humanity is teaching, true teaching, teaching in the things pertaining to the true God, and he sets himself fervently to teaching an untaught world. Christians, you must be teachers. This is your vocation, as those who have themselves been taught of God. Teach by your lives. Teach also in words. Lose no opportunity of instructing others, young or old. Let your lips keep knowledge for all. Live an instructive life.
A Christian is an instructor of many. He does not confine himself to a small inner circle, but he has his eye on everybody. Not with one or two is he content. He remembers the words of commendation to Levi, "He walked with me in peace and truth, and did turn away MANY from iniquity." Many, many, is his watchword. Like Joseph Alleine, he becomes "insatiably greedy of souls." Many, many is the burden of his prayers. Many, many is inscribed on all his plans. His spirit widens and widens, his eye and heart take in larger and larger circles. He remembers the multitudes whom his Master taught, the thousands in the early days of the Church, and he seeks many, many.