"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." I Timothy 3:15
The Undiscernible God
J. L. Burrows, D.D.
From the book, What Baptists Believe and Other Discourses, 1887
Verily, thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.—Isa. 45:15
Many and profound have been the studyings and speculations of learned and wise men
to find out something about God. What is his nature, his character? What is he doing
in this universe? Upon what sort of plan, by what kind of methods is Jehovah working?
Is he working at all? After all, is there any God? These are questions upon which
the philosophers of earth have been working from India to Germany, from Egypt to
England; from Confucius to Spinoza, from Buddha to Stuart Mill, from Plato to Herbert
Spencer. And from every such starting-point logic seems to force the conclusion,—there
is no God. We have searched for him everywhere, and he cannot be found. Every series
of philosophical systems since men began to construct world-building theories has
begun in Materialism and ended in Atheism. So effectually has God seemed to hide
himself from scientific theorists.
When Christianity came as a disturbing element into contact with the ancient philosophies,
these gave shape to the conceptions of many early Christian thinkers. Various sects
arose whose basis principle was some wild, metaphysical notion of the nature of God
and of creation. The Gnostics, the schoolmen, even the recognized orthodox Fathers
of the Church puzzled themselves and perplexed their followers by strangest speculations
and most incomprehensible expositions concerning the character and essence of the
Supreme Power and of creative processes. God was removed, in their conceptions, to
an infinite distance from his creation, and revealed himself only in emanations or
incarnations of himself, in Secondary Beings to whom was delegated the work of creation
Sometimes this secondary Divinity was called the Demiurge, sometimes the Archon and
later the Logos, in a very different than the Christian sense. In all these theories
this Secondary Being was the world-builder and Ruler, the only God whom men could
comprehend. This intermediate Divinity was conceived of as sometimes good, sometimes
evil, sometimes as a mixture of both. In the concepts of some he imagined himself
to be truly the only God, not knowing he was himself influenced by a supreme power
above him, like Jupiter limited and controlled by Fate. There are libraries of volumes
filled with theories of this sort, showing how bewildering to human reason, even
when partially illumined by revelation, but defective in simple faith, is the idea
of the Supreme God. This is a theme upon which those who study most, laboring to
understand, are most perplexed and become most conscious of their own ignorance.
It was not peculiar to Isaiah to exclaim, "Verily, thou art a God that hidest thyself;
O God of Israel, the Saviour."
FIRST NOTICE THE FACT ASSERTED, "GOD HIDETH HIMSELF."
I do not suppose it is intended to be asserted that Jehovah of purpose conceals himself
from his creatures, but rather that, owing to his inherent greatness and glory in
contrast with the narrowness and imperfections of our finite capabilities, a clear
conception of what God is, is for us impossible. As by his spiritual nature he is
invisible to mortal eyes, so, by the infinite grandeur and majesty of his Being,
he is beyond the possibilities of comprehension by such limited, shallow minds as
Our eyes cannot pierce ocean depths, nor scan the interior of the sun. Hence in his
revealed word he is represented as "dwelling in thick darkness," making "darkness
his dwelling-place," "His pavilion is darkness and thick clouds of the sky," " Clouds
and darkness are round about him." But all this darkness to us is as the effect of
blinding light. For in the same word God is spoken of as "light," "everlasting light,"
"in whom is no darkness at all," himself the source and centre of all light.
If you stand under the clear midday beams of the sun and lift your eyes to examine
its splendors, you are dazzled and blinded, you cannot see the sun, but only a vague
glare. Its ineffable lustre renders itself obscure. Blackness settles upon your eyeballs,
and you cannot trace its form nor examine its rays in their source. So St. Paul speaks
of God as " dwelling in light which no man can approach unto, which no man bath seen
nor can see." As there is more light in the sun than we can take into our eye, so
there is infinitely more light in God than we can take into our mind. And hence he
is to us as though surrounded by darkness. Under the bewildering effulgence of his
light we are blinded.
GOD IS HIDDEN FROM US AS TO HIS NATURE.
What is God? In what consists the essence of his being? We say he is immaterial,
pure Spirit. But what idea does this convey? What is spirit? How from pure spirit
can flow out the solid material of creation? If Jehovah existed—a pure Spirit—in
the past solitudes of Eternity, then how came substance matter into being? We are
asking more than we can answer.
GOD IS DESCRIBED TO US BY HIS ATTRIBUTES.
That is, we conceive of certain characteristics of our own nature and we enlarge
them into what we call the unlimited, the infinite. We find in ourselves power and
we say God has all power—he is Omnipotent. We gain a limited degree of knowledge
and we say God has all knowledge—he is Omniscient. We can see and observe. We enlarge
the faculty and say God sees everything—he is Omnipresent. And so through the whole
catalogue of attributes. But when we have collatedand catalogued all, do we now
know what God is—in himself? We are as far from it as when we started.
And then within these attributes "he hideth himself." WHAT IS OMNIPOTENCE?Are the
methods, the workings of Almightiness observable? We see the results of might. We
say the Universe must have been produced by Infinite Power. But who ever saw Omnipotence
in direct action? What Archangel ever saw God making a world? Or giving it the first
cast, spinning through the spaces to continue its three-fold whirlings with unvarying
regularity during the ages.
Can you imagine that any Angel understood how God did it, when "he spake and it was
done, when he commanded and it stood fast?" Who can answer God's challenge, "Where
wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if thou hast understanding!"
He hideth his Omnipotence and reveals it not at all in its operations, but only in
its results. We see what he produces. But where he found or how he formed the materials,
in what secret laboratory he wrought, what implements he used, what methods he pursued,
where he began, how he progressed, when he finished—if he has yet finished—his creative
work, all this is hidden. All processes, all methods are concealed. He works in impenetrable
secrecy, hiding himself from all creatures' gaze.
JEHOVAH HIDETH HIMSELF IN HIS OMNISCIENCE.
His all-seeing eye is everywhere, and yet no creature ever saw it. He watches every
motion, yet none can ever watch him. He observes every thought, yet in no thought
is there consciousness of being noticed. Observing every creature, every thing, every
thought, he is never himself the object of observation.
HE HIDETH HIMSELF IN HIS OMNIPRESENCE.
In his own personality he is in every place in the whole broad universe at the same
instant and in every instant; yet his presence displaces nothing, disturbs nothing,
is noticed by no eye, perceived by no mind. Shrouded in invisibility, he takes distinct
cognizance of every movement and every thought, yet keeps his Omnipresence so concealed
that men are not at all conscious of it, and think of the fact as only a doctrine,
an abstraction, not as a reality.
GOD HIDETH HIMSELF AS TO HIS WISDOM.
We think we can trace evidences of marvelous wisdom in the order, harmonies and adaptations
of all the parts of creation in their isolations and in their combinations. In all
organic structures, in the relations of part to part and of each part to the whole;
in the movements of masses and of molecules, in the organization of worlds and worms,
we discover indications of profoundest wisdom. But by what methods, for what reasons,
to what ends he displayeth this wonderful wisdom he often concealeth.
So hidden is his wisdom that men often question whether the Maker was wise, and ask
such questions as why were thorns and briars and weeds created with such marvelous
designing skill and in such prolific spontaneous abundance? Why are storms, hurricanes,
earthquakes disturbing forces among the harmonies of earth? Why are snakes and gnats
and poisonous insects and reptiles; why wolves and tigers, vultures and hawks and
sharks a part of the living creation? Why such vast deserts and rugged ranges of
sterile hills and broad salt seas, deforming the beauty and detracting from the productive
fertility of earth? In relation to these and a thousand like questions we are forced
to confess that his wisdom is hidden.
HE HIDETH HIMSELF AS TO HIS GOODNESS.
"He openeth his hand and supplieth the wants of every living creature." "From him
proceedeth every good and perfect gift."
Yet men discover no direct connection between his active beneficence and their supplies
and comforts. Their food they themselves sow and plant, and cultivate and gather,
and prepare. Their clothing they shear from the beasts, pluck from the plants, and
spin and weave and sew. And behind and within all these operations, concealing himself,
moves the Lord, giving life to the beast, growth to the plant and cunning and skill
to the laborer, keeping in ceaseless activity all these operations, and men discern
him not. "They bless themselves and forget the Lord," because he hideth his goodness.
THE LORD HIDETH HIMSELF AS TO HIS JUSTICE.
That Jehovah must be inflexibly just is a clear doctrine of revelation and a deduction
of sound reason. Sometimes we do see retribution visited upon the guilty, a sudden
and terrible blow smiting a transgressor. But it seems to us like an accident, or
like a natural consequence of some violated law. We see no direct evidence of God's
interference. And yet behind all these second causes God, unseen, is operating, shaping
the laws and pushing forward the penalties. And we say these are casualties, chances,
not at all seeing that he is controlling and governing all. So effectually does he
hide himself in the administration of justice. In the seeming immunity with which
crime is often perpetrated, men adding sin to sin, undiscovered, blackening their
own souls with daily accumulating guilt, and yet all the while God hides himself
as to his justice, so that we sometimes almost doubt whether he notices.
In the sufferings of the upright and pious, in the seeming long delay of vindicating
their integrity and compensating their wrongs and oppressions, the Lord hideth himself,
while even his own saints cry out, " How long, O Lord, how long !"
Yet we are assured and convinced that behind this impervious veil that conceals the
invisible, there is an eye that traces down into its sources, in the inner heart
of man, every transgression; that keeps an accurate account of all sins, with all
their varying degrees of guilt; himself unobserved, yet observing all; of whose notice
we are not conscious, and yet whose notice is for no instant abstracted or confused.
Oh, it is a startling, solemn thought that a hidden God, who has determined that
the wicked shall not go unpunished, in secret sees and in secret "whets his glittering
sword" that is yet to smite.
THE LORD HIDETH HIMSELF IN THE WORK OF REDEMPTION.
When he sent his Son into our world, to reveal and make efficacious his purposes
and authority, he concealed him in garments of humanity, hid him in a human form
so "that his own received him not." The world did not know that God himself, incarnated
in the person of his own Son, was moving and working among men, originating and perfecting
the grandest scheme for the good, purity, happiness of mankind, which a heart of
infinite benevolence could devise or the hand of infinite power execute.
The kingdom of the incarnate God "cometh without observation." He is moulding the
entire history of the world for the triumph of this kingdom. But he is, himself,
behind the veil, and his plans and purposes are revealed only in their results. We
cannot discover how unfolding events are all gradually and consecutively bearing
upon the grand anal end, the redemption of the world.
In the application of these remedial measures to individuals, under the ministration
of the Holy Spirit, the Lord hideth himself. An influence, unseen, untraceable as
"the wind that bloweth where it listeth," moves the hearts of men, breaking up in
their souls the ice of selfish indifference, thawing out the frozen sensibilities,
awaking the wicked to a sense of guilt, the careless to a consciousness of danger,
inciting yearnings after deliverance and holiness, awaking and directing right purposes,
renewing, regenerating the whole man, working within the soul to will and to do according
to his good pleasure, while all the while the man seems to be working out his own
salvation. In all God works and in all he hideth himself. While it is true that he
reveals enough for all practical direction and guidance, it is at the same time true
that in all departments of his administration he conceals more than he reveals.
GOD HIDETH HIMSELF WITHIN WHAT ARE COMMONLY CALLED NATURAL LAWS OR LAWS OF NATURE.
That Jehovah has established uniform laws for the government of the Physical Universe
is obvious enough, even to a superficial observer. Worlds move in their several spheres
in beautiful harmony and regularity. Their relations to each other are never disturbed.
Day and night, summer and winter succeed each other in regular order. Even comets
in their eccentric orbits we are sure are following settled laws. The most reasonable
logic is that uniform laws indicate an Intelligent Law-Maker. Laws cannot originate
themselves and work themselves into regular operation. They must be indications and
proofs of intelligence, purpose, mind. They are only methods by which foreseeing
and controlling intelligence works.
And yet so entirely does God hide himself behind and within these laws, that some
studious scientists, absorbed in their chosen specialties, can discover nothing but
the laws and cannot find God within or among them. And because they cannot see his
hand working or managing the laws some deny that there is any God.
I see a brilliant electric lamp five miles distant. I never saw one before and I
do not know how it is lighted or kept blazing; but a man would think me a fool if
I argued that it was a chance concentration of electricity, without any interference
of purpose or intelligence; that it was not intended at all, but only happened. It
is an hour before day when I first discover it, and I watch till the day dawns and
the glorious sun, upspringing from the Eastern horizon, shines down the new light
into obscurity. And a philosopher standing at my elbow says:
"You were right in concluding that that bright light thirty feet above the ground
was designed and made by some intelligent-minded man, but that magnificent orb blazing
millions of miles higher, a thousand million times brighter, itself the source of
the electricity that mind and hand concentrated into that lamp, that Sun itself was
never designed or made at all, was never intended to shine as it does, but just happened
through the blind operation of blind laws to form itself into that shape and splendor.
There is mind in constructing the electric lamps, but mind had nothing to do with
the construction of the Sun."
My reason and common sense revolt at the preposterous proposition that intelligence
was necessary to the construction of the little light, and not at all necessary to
the construction of the infinitely greater light.
Some men seem to be unable to get down beneath the facts—the phenomena—that are developed,
into the prime causes, the intelligent working power out of which they all spring.
We discourse learnedly about gravitation and how it binds systems of worlds together
and keeps all in place. And what is gravitation, but a big word to conceal ignorance?
To say a body falls by gravitation is only saying that it falls because it is heavy,
or that it falls because it does fall.
There is no such fluid or ether or mechanical force as gravitation. The word itself
is nothing but a name to describe the fact that bodies have a tendency to approach
one another in proportion to bulk and distance. But the underlying question is, why
have they this tendency? The only answer, nescience, often nick-named science, can
give is, because they do. The answer that a truer philosophy gives is, because an
intelligent mind ordained that these relations should subsist between bodies. That
mind we prefer to call God. There we have a cause. Gravitation is not a cause; it
is only a fact for which there must be some cause outside itself. Science coins a
good many terms that only describe facts or phenomena and calls them causes.
In all departments of physical nature we can trace operations and relations to a
limited distance and there we become lost. We are sure that there must be something
further on, but what it is and how it works no science can find out. We can trace
up links in the chain of causes a certain distance, but the end of the chain eludes
our most eager and patient researches and loses itself within the sphere of the invisible
and indiscernible. And there is God within that sphere, sending out influences along
those links that are controlling all that is visible, creating causes, himself the
perpetually operating first cause of all, yet keeping himself and the activities
of his agency concealed from the apprehension of finite minds. We see, examine, admire
the workmanship, but we cannot see the worker. We can only very dimly comprehend
his methods or his reasons. He dwells within the darkness of the dazzling light,
and we are blinded when we attempt to gaze into its interior insufferable splendors.
Within all his works God hideth himself.
Now is it any more wonderful or inexplicable that the Lord should hide himself AS
TO THE ADMINISTRATION OF HIS PROVIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT?
Men do not lose faith in God nor complain of injustice or partiality, when he conceals
himself as to his nature, his attributes or his works; but when they fail to discover
his hand, his benevolence, his righteousness in his providential management of human
affairs, they doubt and murmur and complain. Through the operation of what they call
natural laws men see storms, earthquakes and sweeping cyclones, and yet they are
convinced that after all there are good ends subserved by these seeming evils and
outbreaks, and that upon the whole the ordering of nature is wise and benevolent.
We cannot always immediately trace the beneficence under the hurtling ruins of a
city and amid the festering corpses of the dead, when the earth has heaved up its
foundations; but still we believe that the system of laws which govern the physical
universe are as a whole good and wise.
Why should we not carry the like conclusions into our views of God's Providence?
But when we see virtue humble and vice proud, the pious depressed and suffering,
and the wicked prosperous and exultant, the right cause languishing and the wrong
cause flourishing; God seemingly rejecting the prayers of the righteous and favoring
the curses of the wicked; when we see many who have faithfully tried to obey him
prostrated by poverty and affliction, while many who have openly denied and defied
him walk along the serener heights of enjoyment and peace; when we observe the great
inequalities in the lives of men, conditioned upon no noticeable distinctions of
moral character, we sometimes become amazed and dazed and impatiently ask: Is there
a God after all, who ruleth righteously and wisely among men? When we see victories
of injustice, fraud and violence, over meekness, honesty and piety, we wring our
hands in perplexity and agony and cry out,—"Doth God know? Is there knowledge with
the most High?" "Surely, thou art a God that hidest thyself."
We have heard men groaning under the pressure of adversities, the reason or the justice
of which they could not discover, call in question the reign or the righteousness
of Jehovah and suggest skeptical doubts of his benevolence or of his Being, and conclude
that there is no profit in praying to him or in serving him.
Poor, weak, short-sighted mortal! What are you going to do about it? Whither do you
propose turning when you give up faith in Jehovah? Is there any other God for you
to worship? Is there any other Being to whom you can commit the control of your happiness
or destinies? Will you dictate to the All-Wise, and threaten him with the withdrawal
of your confidence and obedience, if he does not meet your views of what is right
and best? Do you dare nurse displeasure toward God because he thwarts your plans
and disappoints your hopes? Will you patronize Jehovah by your approval, or revenge
yourself upon him by your disapproval? "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh,
the Lord shall hold you in derision!"
What can you do better for yourself than submit to his will, whether you comprehend
the reasons of his dealings with you or not? Can you secure your own interests, insure
your own happiness, save your own soul, make your eternal life a blessing, without
God? Oh, repent of these rebellious complainings and let faith strengthen itself
against all these infidel misgivings! It is true that the Lord does hide himself
in the administration of his Providence, as he does as to his Nature, his Attributes
and his Works. We cannot understand from what we see what he purposes to accomplish.
But faith believes that he overrules all for good. He leadeth nations as he does
individuals, "by a way they know not."
Thus, though God hideth himself in his providential management, we may be sure that
he never swerves from the line of highest wisdom and purest goodness, and that he
will develop in kindness and love his purposes so that "What we know not now we shall
From what we have said concerning the obscurity in which Jehovah veils himself, it
may be presumptuous to say anything about the reasons which may govern him in thus
concealing his plans and workings. But though we may not discover all he means, and
in many cases nothing at all of his purposes, yet there are certain revealed principles—general
truths—which may furnish a clue to what otherwise would be utterly inexplicable,
and so furnish a foundation for faith, when sight fails.
Jehovah is in himself absolutely independent and self-sufficient. He has no need
of consulting or informing any of his creatures concerning his plans and purposes.
Kings may need counselors. The Lord needs none; for he is himself the fountain of
all wisdom, and all the wisdom man possesses conies into him only as tide ripplets
from the great ocean. Sages may need instruction, sometimes from even the humblest
sources, but "who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor bath
taught him" or can teach him?
Why, then, should the Lord make known to men or to angels his purposes? They cannot
help him. Nor can they change or modify them. He knows his own ends and all the means
for securing them, and all possible contingencies that may arise.
It is true that there are men who seem to fancy that they could instruct God if he
would only consult them; who do not hesitate to criticize and find fault with his
plans and methods. He has not created the world, nor does he govern it, so as precisely
to suit them. They imagine that they could show him a better way. But the great Creator
evidently does not so think, and in the calmness and majesty of his own self-sufficiency
carries forward his own designs in absolute independence of creaturely interference.
Were the Lord to make known his plans and purposes, the depraved hostility of devils
and devil-governed men might prompt them to oppose his designs and interfere with
his methods of accomplishing them. Indeed we see this, when the Lord does make known
in a general way his will. They array themselves against it. They will not permit
him to rule his world, or to bring themselves and others into submission and harmony
with his plans if they can hinder. They throw themselves, all their influence and
example, against his gracious purposes and the means of their fulfillment so far
as he has revealed them for the regeneration of the world. True, they can effect
nothing beyond what he permits and overrules, and their opposition is only so much
the worse for themselves. But many of his plans he does not choose to bring at all
into conflict with human or infernal hostility and therefore he so hideth himself
that ungodly hate cannot discover the ends which he intends to secure nor the means
by which be purposes to accomplish them. He spares them the guilt and punishment
of such a weak and wicked attempt.
Again: The Lord would have men act freely, in view of motives and of right, and not
compulsorily, in view of what they know to be inevitable. He has mysteriously connected
human freedom of action with his fixed purposes. But if he clearly made known just
what and how he determined to do, men would conclude that they had no freedom, choice
or responsibility. They would sink into the lethargy or despair of fatalism. God
does not mean that his foreknowledge or decrees shall interfere with the free agency
Indeed, be carries out his decrees through the foreseen actings of this free agency
and thus connects and harmonizes as none but a God of infinite wisdom could do His
own predeterminations with man's agencies. There is here room left for the disciplinary
development of all human activities and energies. Men are encouraged to vigilance,
consecration and prayer. They do not know what is before them, therefore they must
watch and labor and pray. They cannot tell how far the Lord may interweave their
own agency into his plans, therefore they may keep themselves in constant readiness
for him to use. His purposes are fixed indeed, but they are not fixed in matters
pertaining to their personal interests, without reference to their own faculties,
relations and obligations. God would not have his revealings induce in men's souls
indifference, despondency or despair, and therefore it may well be that he conceals
the ends he determines, that they may act freely in view of right principles and
Again: In hiding himself the Lord tests our faith in him and our submission to him.
He reveals to us enough to assure us of the perfect wisdom and goodness of his government.
He conceals himself enough to educate and test our confidence and faith in that government.
What he does, we know not now? What then? Shall we indulge doubts and suspicions
that matters are going wrong, or shall we not rather summon our faith to assure our
souls that, beyond the clouds, all things are moving rightly so as to secure the
most beneficent ends? The foundation' grace of the soul is faith, and God often hides
himself that we may exercise faith where we cannot see nor understand, that we may
cherish unwavering confidence in him.
There would be no room or place for such faith and trust if we could understand all.
It is when he covers himself with clouds and directs our pathway amid storms and
through deep waters, that we feel that we have nothing to sustain us or comfort us
but undoubting faith in his perfect wisdom, righteousness and love.
Within the folds of the veil, which Jehovah gathers around his throne, we find the
place for believing confidence and submission, certain in our faith that he is controlling
all things wisely and well. He has given sufficient assurances of his love and power
by his general favoring providences and especially by the gift of Jesus, his only
and well-beloved Son, to warrant perfect faith and confiding submission to his orderings;
even when he withdraws his light and leaves us for a season in darkness, we are still
assured that even amid the gloom "all things are working together for good."
Still another reason, which covers all the rest and which perhaps more than all the
rest is fitted to inspire and strengthen our faith and humility and submission, is
this: That God is infinite and cannot bring the infinite within the compass and grasp
of finite capabilities. Robert Hall beautifully says:
"A child cannot be made to comprehend the reasons of his father in imposing those
restraints and privations which are a necessary part of parental discipline. It is
only by degrees that its feeble capacity can be made to penetrate the secret of its
education. If this be the case with respect to two finite minds, one of which has
only arrived at greater maturity than the other, how much more disproportionate must
be the plans of infinite wisdom to our narrow faculties, and what force does such
a consideration give to that appeal of the Apostle, 'We have had fathers of our flesh
who corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection
to the Father of spirits and live?' Surely we owe as much deference to the wisdom
and as much reliance upon the kindness of the Eternal Father as we give to our earthly
We may be the more believing and confiding when we call to mind that the PURPOSE
AND END OF GOD'S CONCEALMENTS, AS WELL AS OF HIS REVEALINGS, IS THE SALVATION OF
MAN. Notice particularly the closing sentence of this text, showing the connection
of thought,—"The Saviour." Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel,
the Saviour. He hideth himself that he may be "THE SAVIOUR."
They are not black storm-clouds which he gathers about his throne, within which to
concentrate lightnings of wrath and thunderbolts of vengeance to hurl on the heads
of the guilty. But he withdraws into his pavilion of resplendent darkness, that he
may there work out the plans and thence project the forces for saving men. Is he
ever hid from your vision, my brother? Do you, like Job, search for him on every
side, without discovering his presence? Oh, comfort your soul with the assurance
that within the veil, like the High Priest within the Holy of Holies, he is still
employed in what pertains to your salvation—"Behind a frowning providence be hides
a smiling face." In the obscurity, as well as in the light, he is still Saviour.
Finally, let us gratefully remember that all that it is needful for us to know, our
Father has very clearly revealed. When we earnestly inquire, “How can my sins be
pardoned? How can my soul be justified? How can my condemnation be canceled? How
can I gain God's favor in life, his support in death, his smile in heaven?”—all this
is made plain enough for the understanding, even of the illiterate man and of the
inquiring child. Along the path of practical duty and piety instructions plain enough
are given for even "babes and sucklings,"and "the wayfaring man, though a fool, need
not err therein."