Having considered that memory is that power of the mind whereby we have been enabled by God to receive into our minds, retain within them, and then recall a countless number of facts about a variety of objects, let us also consider what a wonderful gift it is by considering the value that it has for us. And I can put it very bluntly and state that without it our life would be nothing but a vegetable life. Everything we do as human beings depends upon memory. What kind of work could we perform without remembering tools and methods, to say nothing of the object on which we are going to work? The most menial task requires memory. It is not simply the deep thinker, the scientist, the chemist with all his formulae, and the mathematician with his principles that needs to retain facts and to recall them. To sweep a floor you have to remember what a broom is. To wash dishes you will have to remember to put water in the pan. And what would our family life be like, if we could not remember who our children were? I would fear for you ladies getting home tonight, if you could not remember which way to go home, which house was yours on which street, where the door was, what key to use, and the like. We are constantly depending upon some fact in the recesses of our minds for the next act which we perform.
And even life itself requires knowledge and memory of that knowledge. If we cannot remember what is good food and what is poison, we will not live long. If we do not remember that fire burns, we will suffer fatal burns some day. A child learns by experience exactly because that child remembers. He remembers, for example, results of touching what is hot. You can assure that child that the electric toaster is off and that it will not hurt him; but if he touched it and burned his finger, he is going to remember that and shy away from the unplugged toaster as well as the toaster that is plugged into the electric socket. But without memory we would never learn anything. Nothing that we saw, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted would make any impression upon us. None of this would be stored away for future use.
Life for us would be no richer than that of a cabbage plant. Even the animals have a reflection of memory. Most of it, probably, is a matter of suggestion. But they certainly receive facts into their brains. Dogs learn their names. They remember faces and smells. They remember sounds, and when you step on the porch, they know the sound of your feet and will not bark a warning but a greeting. Without memory we would be far inferior to them. And they can also dream. And in a limited way they can recall. Stories are told of dogs who grieved because their masters did not return. And that is possible only by an act of bringing to mind that master. But a cabbage plant cannot do any of this; and we would be no better without that wonderful gift.
With it life becomes very rich. We can, as we suggested a moment ago, relive our whole past, bring back time and time again for re-enjoyment some event of years ago. This is what enables people to speak of the “good old times.” Maybe we color things as we recall, but the fact is there, that we can have present joy about a past experience because of memory. The same, of course, is true with sad experiences and mistakes we have made. But more of this presently. Because of memory we are able to be taught and to teach our children. Learning is really adding to the number of facts which we have already stored away in the mind. And wisdom is the ability to sort them out and collect them for the successful attainment of a prescribed goal.
But what interests me, and, I am sure, you as well, is this wonderful gift in the sphere of the spiritual and in the area of our salvation. Without it there is no salvation. Because without it there is no faith, hope, and love. Without memory we have no truth of God in our minds to recall for trust and confidence in Him. Without memory we have no promises of God kept in the mind to which we can cling and for which we can long. There is no longing without memory of the object which is promised us. Without memory there is no one upon whom to fix our love. We cannot love a God Whom we do not know. And we cannot know Him if the truth concerning Him does not “stick” in our minds. Remember what we said a moment ago: Israel’s sin is summed up in those words, “They forgot the Lord their God.” This means that they did not love Him; and He was not in their hearts and minds in love. Therefore they went against Him.
And without faith, hope, and love there is no salvation. These are part of our salvation and mean that we do in love retain the knowledge of God as God; that we retain in our minds His promises, long for them, and expect them to be fulfilled and comfort ourselves in regard to them by recalling them; that God is in that mind as the object of our love and that we remember to keep His commandments. And, as Paul writes inEphesians 2:8, it is through faith that we are saved. Take faith away, and there is no hope: for faith is the substance of things hoped for. Take faith away, and there is no love: for no man loves that which he does not believe exists.
Consider, too, that it is memory that makes you and me capable of confessing our sins, of fleeing to the cross for forgiveness, of remembering those deeds whereby we may express our gratitude to God for so great deliverance from such an awful misery.
But now that we do have this gift of memory we can know the blessings of God’s covenant. We can know our sin and misery. We can know our way of deliverance. We can know how to express gratitude to God. And when I say “know” I mean that we can draw from the storehouse of fact in our minds these truths to comfort, direct, and control us in all of our activities. Now we can live in God’s promises, review in our minds and before our children the whole glorious truth from our creation and fall unto life in the new Jerusalem, which now already we can see because we remember what God said about it in His Word. In afflictions and persecutions, in adversity of every sort we can comfort ourselves in the truth which we remember. In prosperity we can remember the God Who gave and can come before His face with thanksgiving.
It stands to reason, then, that having this wonderful gift, we also have a calling with it. That calling is certainly to make use of it. We must store away as much truth as we can, and that means expose ourselves to it, to see as much, hear as much, taste and smell as much, and touch as much truth as we possibly can. You cannot recall what is not received and retained. This is extremely important also to remember in regard to our children. Not less doctrine and more of the world, but more and more doctrine they should receive, even as there is such a development of false doctrine that seeks to find a place in those minds. And it stands to reason that to teach them facts of truth to remember, we have to know and remember them ourselves.
Now Scripture points out to us two basic truths to remember. First of all, although it is addressed to youth, it applies to us. Solomon says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” That is basic. God is the Creator of all, and all our thinking and acting must revolve around that truth. Forget all this atheism and theistic evolution, and remember that God made you and all the world in which you live. In all the matters of your natural life remember that. Then you will realize that you and all that which you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch is His as the Creator of all. And you will see yourselves as His stewards and royal priesthood. Remembering Him as our Creator is to remember His law which as Creator He gives us and in fact expresses that according to which He created us. Remembering that law we will be kept in a way that is pleasing in His sight. Listen to a versification once again from Psalm 119:
In danger oft and nigh to death,
Thy law remembered is my aid;
The wicked seek my overthrow,
Yet from Thy truth I have not strayed.
Without remembering that law we do not remember Him as Creator, and without remembering Him as Creator we will not walk in His commandments but stray under the pressure of the ungodly. It cannot be stressed too strongly that we must know His commandments and remember them at all times, but especially in times of stress and temptations. And in this instance remembering means having them consciously before us when we are tempted to do otherwise.
And we will slip. We are yet in the flesh with all its lust, and therefore there is that second basic matter which we are to remember. It is before us every Sunday when we congregate to worship. It is before you at this moment engraven in the table of communion, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” We are to remember the Creator, but also the Christ. We are to remember our calling before the Creator, but also the cross of Christ. Then we will find comfort and peace for our souls. For us the “judgments of old” are the judgments based upon that cross; and therefore we can say more clearly and with more consciousness of the beauty of it, “I remembered Thy judgments of old, O Lord; and have comforted myself.” Forget the Creator, and we will walk in sin. But then forget the cross, and we will lose all comfort and confidence of God’s covenant.
And we better take time to make good use of this memory and teach our children, so that they have the truth to receive and retain and then recall for their godly walk of life and comfort of salvation’s promises. O, it is proper that we teach them the matters of their earthly life, but then in such a way that they know and remember their Creator. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Be sure that they get this, or otherwise all their learning will serve to make them forget the Lord their God. It is either . . . or. Learning serves to remember God, or it serves to cause us to forget Him and to go our own way.
Let us also cultivate that memory. Use it, but develop it as well. I know that youth is the time for study; and then the mind is clearer and more receptive to learning. But while we have command yet of our mental powers, we ought to commit more and more of the truth to memory. We ought to have it at our mind’s “fingertips” in order to defend the truth in the midst of all the error of today. We ought to be diligent in our study for our societies, read our religious periodicals, attend our worship services as often as possible, take time just to sit down and reflect on God’s promises and REMIND one another of them Reminding is an invaluable tool in remembering.
By this meditation and contemplating, by reviewing in our minds God’s goodnesses by means of this wonderful power of memory, we will be able to say to our souls and to others, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” Is that not an awful thing, to forget one of them? A thankful people is a people that remembers the God of our salvation in Christ. And a truly joyful people is a people that remembers that God’s memory is perfect and that He will therefore fulfill all His promises to us. We will be sure that Christ will return with salvation for us. We will be sure that He remembers that OUR names are written in the Lamb’s book and that Christ has blotted out all of our guilt. In the way of that wonderful gift of memory we will have something wonderful to hold on to in the dreadful days ahead; and with us it also shall be that we comfort ourselves and others by remembering and reminding .of God’s judgments of old.