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of the pulpit and of the Church is first to help
men to know God. If a minister does not make
God more real to some soul he is failing in his
ministry. Many are working for the poor and
the intemperate, and seeking to improve the
human condition, but if they stop there and
leave their fellow- men as ignorant as ever of
God, they only prepare them to realise more
keenly their misery. Cease not to minister to
those who are going to destruction soul and
body, but never forget that missions, coffee-
houses, and clubs for men and boys should be
only stepping-stones to the knowledge of God
which is life eternal. Without that men are

* "Communion with God/' Herrmann, p. 17.



The Yisiox of God. 17

lifted to heights from which they will quickly
fall to more terrible abysses. Give all
your life for God in humanity, but do not fail
to make plain the way in which the poorest and
vilest may realise that they are the sons and
daughters of the King. This is the noblest
service. To enter this ministry there is needed
no touch of bishop's hands ; he who knows God
has in that knowledge a Divine ordination to
preach. Do you know God ? I beg you tell me
all you know ; you can do me no greater f avour.
Do I know Him ? Let me tell you how in dis-
appointment, pain, sickness, under the shadow
of death, He has revealed Himself in those
silences when only still voices speak.

When I see partisans in God's name work-
ing to build sects, begging money to erect
churches which will be monuments of hate ;
speaking bitter words ; spending weeks and
months in contention over forms and theories
which no one understands ; when I see puny men
upholding one system of theology and denounc-
ing another, as if He whom the heaven of
heavens cannot contain could be tucked away in
the syllogisms of their little schools ; when I see
others more anxious to be rich than to be right,
to be great than to be good, to assert their
rights than to feed the poor and sympathise
with the afflicted — I feel that there is one
thing more important than all others combined
for those who know God, and that is, to devote

2



18 The Vision of God.

all their energies to helping others to know
Him, for " God is light, and in Him is no dark-
ness at all." If all knew God as only friend
can know friend, cruelty and injustice, impurity,
discord, and whatsoever loveth and maketh a
lie, would no more be known among men ; and
truth, fidelity, and love would fill all hearts and
abide for ever. c ' Whosoever loveth is born of
God, and knoweth God."

How, then, may we acquire this supreme
knowledge ? Many answers are possible, but
only one need be given. All who follow Jesus
Christ sooner or later will realise that, like
Him, they, too, are sons of God. How the
acquaintance is perfected no man can explain,
but all who walk in the royal way of the holy
cross, as surely as the day succeeds the night
are made like Him whom they follow, until
with Him they can say as the door of oppor-
tunity opens, "Father . . . Thy kingdom
come," and as the door of opportunity closes,
"Father, into Thy hands I commend my
spirit." By following Jesus Christ men are
led to God — that is all we know, and all we
need to know.



II.

INTERPRET GOD BY HIS
FATHERHOOD.



II.

INTERPRET GOD BY HIS FATHERHOOD.

"But to as there is but one God, the Father."

1 Cor. viii. 6.

The greatest question in the sphere of pure
thought is, Does God exist? The next in
importance is, If He exists, what is He like?
The former has never been long unasked, and
when asked, the second has never failed to
follow. This study has nothing to do with the
former question. On no other theory than that
of His existence can one of the problems of
light or thought be explained. If there is no
God there is no purpose, no meaning in any-
thing, and the universe flashes in its lights,
speaks in its voices, and sings in its harmony,
an infinite and eternal lie. No God — then
there is nothing but blackness of darkness
eve^where and for ever. There was never a
truer word spoken than " The fool hath said in
his heart, There is no God."

Of hardly less importance is the second ques-
tion — What is God like ? Upon the answer to
that depends all comfort for the present and all
hope for the future. If He is only a King like
earthly kings, an infinite Autocrat, it would be



22 Interpret God by His Fatherhood.

as well if there were no G-od. An empty
throne is better than a king with no heart. If
the idea of God is that of absolute will — cold,
remorseless, universal, immortal, life will be
fatalistic and pessimistic. Pessimism and fatal-
ism are common where the kingliness of Deity
is emphasized. If the conception of God is
that of a big man, with human passions and
frailties, then passion and sensuality will pre-
vail. The voluptuous life of Corinth, Athens,
and the East was only the reflection of the
deities whom the people worshipped. Where
Jupiter was god men were warlike and cruel ;
where Yenus was goddess women were lewd and
men licentious ; where a cruel divinity has
been adored human sacrifices have been offered,
as among the Druids. Man always reflects his
idea of God. A city or a state never rises
above the faith of its people.

Jesus Christ assumed the existence of God.
He gave two ways by which His character
might be known. He said, u I and the Father
are one." He said again, "He that hath seen
Me hath seen the Father." God is like Jesus
Christ. That is the message of Christianity.
But is there no other way by which the Scrip-
tural teaching about God may be interpreted ?
Is there no key to the doctrine of God ? Sup-
pose a man from a remote star were to land on
our planet, and we were desirous of comparing
notes with him about God, what would we tell



Interpret God by His Fatherhood. 23

hini was the teaching of our sacred books on
that subject ? Let us seek an answer to that
question. In doing so we will confine our
inquiry to the New Testament, not because it in
any way conflicts with the Old, but because in
the Old we have that which is partial, while
in Jesus Christ we have that which is universal.
Is there any word which Jesus applies to God
which answers the inquiry, What is God like ?
He often speaks of the kingdom of God, but
seldom of the King. There are references to
the kingdom, but, as in the Lord's Prayer, it is
almost always to the Father's kingdom. The
prayer begins "Our Father," and continues
"Thy kingdom come." In a few places God is
called "light," "love," but such characterisa-
tions are not common. One word and only one
is usually applied to God, and that is " Father."
In five verses in the New Testament God is
spoken of as King, and in two hundred and
eighteen as Father.* No other name is often
applied to Him. "When Jesus disputed with
the doctors He answered His mother, " Wist ye
not that I must be about My Father's busi-
ness ? " And when He hung on the cross He
cried, " Father, into Thy hands I commend My
spirit." He first enounced Himself Messiah to
a heathen woman of disreputable character, and
yet to her He spoke of His Father three times,
and once of God as a Spirit. "The hour
* See Cruden's Concordance.



24 Interpret God by His Fatherhood.

cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers
shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth :
for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.*
When Jesus taught His disciples concerning
prayer He put away heathen ideas of prostra-
tions and the adoration of a kingly majesty,
and said, " After this manner pray ye : Our
Father." When He taught trust in Divine
providence it was as follows : u Your heavenly
Father feedeth them." The parables are in-
structive reading on this point. Many of them
relate to the kingdom of God, and this we have
seen is the Father's kingdom. The only para-
bles which clearly teach lessons about God are
those in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of
St. Luke. The first likens Him to a shepherd,
the second to a woman,, and the third to a
father. In the parable of the Tares Jesus
speaks of the kingdom of the Father, and the
parable of the Unmerciful Servant shows how
the Father will treat the unforgiving. But
there is one passage more impressive than any
other. It is in the Gospel of St. Matthew,
the twenty-fifth chapter, where the Master is
speaking of the judgment, the rewards of
the righteous and the punishment of sinners.
Christ is there represented as the King, and
saying that the blessed are called " children of
my Father " ; and they inherit from their
Father, as the others are disinherited by Him.
* John iv. 23.



Interpret God by His Fatherhood. 25

Into the midst of the terrors of judgment that
name Father is introduced.

Baptism is first in the name of the
« Father."

The lesson about prayer "begins with
" Father."

The lesson about providence begins with
" Father."

The announcement of Christ's Messiah ship
contains the word "Father."

The Advocate is with the « Father."

The Comforter is to come from the
"Father."

When the Supper was first eaten Jesus
said that He would not drink of the fruit of
the vine again until He drank it with His
disciples in His " Father's " kingdom ;* and St.
Paul declares that when Christ gives up His
kingdom it will be into the " Father's " hand.f

Among heathen religions we are introduced
to kings. Jupiter ruled by right of force,
having dethroned Saturn. Invisible powers,
swift to see, remorseless to punish, with no
care for men except to get their share of the
praise — such were the gods of the pagans, a
commonplace, vindictive, heartless, despicable
crowd. To those who thought of gods like
themselves, only more infernal, came this
Nazarene peasant, and all His music was
tuned to one note : it was Father at the begin-

* Matthew xxvi. 29. t 1 Corinthians xv. 24.



26 Interpret God by His Fatherhood.

ning, Father at the end, and Father all the
time. That name for God is used forty times
in the New Testament where any other name
is used once. Am I too sanguine when I
think that this is the key which will open the
door into all the knowledge which man can
have of God? If our Lord almost without
exception speaks of His Father, shall we who
are Christ's go through the world as if we were
orphans ? As if we were in the hands of a
Being who had no interest in us except to get
all out of us that He could and then crush us ?
As if we were responsible to One who had no
responsibility to us ? All this cannot be better
expressed than in the oldest, most Christian,
and most Apostolic of all the creeds, " I believe
in God, the Father Almighty."

What does Father signify when applied to
God? Names now are only designations.
Children might as well be numbered. Charles
and John mean no more than one and two.
It was not so formerly. Names once meant
something. They were symbols. They described
characteristics. They commemorated events.
Thus Job meant " one who weeps or cries " ;
John, " the grace or mercy of the Lord " ;
James and Jacob, "one who supplants or under-
mines " ; Jesus, u saviour or deliverer " ; Jeho-
vah, " self -subsisting." Formerly a name was
given because it was applicable either to the
person or to the events of his birth. The Jews



Interpret God by His Fatherhood. 27

had no name for God which they could utter.
He was the Awful, the Holy, the One who
concealed Himself in light. To a people who
had no name for their Deity Jesus came and
gave Him a name. "You do not speak His
name ; He is a stranger to you ; I say to you,
call Him Father. He is near to you, your
friend." That was something to take hold of
hearts. To have called Him King would have
suggested Herod, a weakling, a tool of
foreigners, who played at royalty and was
a slave ; it would have pointed toward Csesar,
far-off and unapproachable, who sent wretches
without hearts to grind the faces of the poor ;
it would have reminded of tyranny, remorseless
and resistless. To have named God King to
such people would have been like naming Him
ocean to a drowning man, or storm to one in
the track of a tornado. But all over those lulls
and valleys were fathers working to save
enough from the tax-gatherer to buy food
for the little ones; in every hut and home
" father " was a great and dear name. So
Jesus said, call Him Father. There is also a
deeper reason for the name. Father and child
are of one substance. The child inherits the
father's characteristics, his very nature. By
applying that name Jesus said to those hard
and grasping Jews,, " You have the very nature
of God ; you are the inheritors of His charac-
teristics. " Why is that truth so often for-



28 Interpret God by His Fatherhood.

gotten ? Jesus did not only use the name with
those who recognised God and obeyed Him;
He spoke of Him as Father to all classes.
The Lord's Prayer was not given to converted
men, for there were then few if any true
converts. God is the Father of all men — that
is the message of Jesus. A father feels
toward his children as his equals. If they
disobey he does not regard them with hate,
but with sorrow and pain.

Fatherhood cannot be learned from books.
The one Book contains the key to the nature of
God, but it contains no description of God. It
simply says He is Father. Well, what is the
ideal father ? What says the Book ? Nothing.
Then turn the eyes inward, and ask what an
ideal father is. Every man's own interpretation
of the instinct of fatherhood will furnish him
the only idea of God which is worth anything.
When Christ said, "Pray, Our Father," Father
meant what it always means, or nothing. The
only way in which a child can get an idea of a
father is from his father ; the only way men
can get a conception of the Heavenly Father is
by understanding what fatherhood commonly
means. It is no weak word. It impersonates
love, but love that can be severe as well as
tender. Will a father allow a viper to stay in
his home, even though it be in the person of
his own boy ? If need be he will compel the
unworthy one to leave the home, but he will



Interpret God by His Fatherhood. 29

not forsake him. If his boy is in prison he
will go to him ; if he is in a hospital he will
minister to him ; if he is among the very devils
of society he will say, " I cannot take him
home for the sake of the others, but I will
never leave him; some time he will come to
himself and return, and then he shall find my
arms wide open." Is the great Father less
gracious and patient than earthly parents ?
Fatherhood means strength, severity, if need
be; yet never severity for its own sake, but
always for the restoration of the one who has
gone wrong, or the protection of those who
are imperilled.

Fatherhood implies responsibility, obligation.
It is sometimes said that God is under no
obligation to do anything to save sinners;
that He would be justified in destroying them
without an effort to save them. The idea
is monstrous ! Bring the thought home. Is
your child responsible for his own existence?
Does your child determine what his heredity
shall be ? Does your child decide what his
training shall be ? No ; parents are responsible
to their children, for by them they exist ; they
say where they shall live, and determine their
surroundings. Fatherhood feels the burden of
a child's weakness. One is born a cripple, and
oh ! how tenderly he is guarded and nursed.
Another is born a moral cripple — through no
fault of his. Those who went before him



30 Interpret God by His Fatherhood.

indulged in sins which have brought him into
the world with tendencies to evil. The father
is now a different man ; he tries to keep his son
from those influences which will develop such
tendencies ; he is responsible for the condition
of his son, and consequently under obligation
to do all that is possible for his protection and
salvation. With all reverence it may be
affirmed that the Heavenly Father is under
obligation to His children, because if He is not
He ought never to have been called Father, and
because He has recognised and honoured that
obligation, for " God commendeth His love
toward us in that when we were yet sinners
Christ died for us."

These points are axiomatic. God in the New
Testament is known by hardly any other name
than Father, and when applied to Him the
name should be interpreted in the only way
possible, namely, by the instinct of fatherhood
in humanity. The use of that name implies
that in nature God and man are essentially the
same ; that the interests of all are on the heart
of God as the interests of our children rest on
our hearts ; and that God is under obligation to
do all that He can for the restoration of the
erring and the salvation of the lost. The
universe is in the hands of love ; all worlds
are in the leash of love ; the development of
history is under the guidance of love; time,
death, judgment, eternity, are in the embrace



Interpret God by His Fatherhood. 31

of omnipotent and everlasting love ; — and God
is the Father Almighty. That is the very
heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This revelation of God by fatherhood illumin-
ates certain otherwise dark places in human
experience. It sheds light on the doctrine of
Providence, or the relation of God to individuals.
The " conflict between faith and life " is con-
stant and terrible. Those who realise their
ambitions and desires have no difficulty in
trusting Providence. We always believe in God
when He makes things go our way. But
calamity is common, and sorrow is universal.
Kings have as much of them as peasants.
Frederic died of cancer and Rudolph by suicide.
"The President pays dearly for Lis White
House." * Some feel born to fly, but have no
wings. Others think they are made for public
life, but the public thinks differently. Some
have wealth, while others can never get ahead ;
their inferiors wear the honours and reap the
harvests. Hearts made for homes have no
homes. Those not fitted to bear responsibilities
struggle under them. Work, sacrifice, saving,
are followed by loss. The rainy day comes and
nothing is laid by. Health goes, and brave and
daring spirits are shut within four walls for
years, leaving them only for narrower walls.
To-day there is a cloudless sky; to-night a
swift shadow; to-morrow all will be dark.
* Emerson's Essay on Compensation.



32 Interpret God by His Fatherhood.

These are frequent experiences. They burn
like white-hot iron. They startle, then daze ;
then conies the vague wonder whether there is
anything but everlasting disappointment and
never opening mystery. What shall be said?
This is the golden key which will unlock all
dark doors : interpret God by His fatherhood.
Try any other ; the doors move not. Try this ;
they swing on silent hinges. God is Father.
He sees and knows all, and He allows that to
come to each which each most needs. His
purpose is blessing. All are in the hands of
One who is doing what earthly fathers do for
their children — the very best possible. " But
I am disappointed ! " Do you never disappoint
your child for his good ? " But I do not get
what I want ! " Do you allow your child to
have everything he wants? "But I suffer
terrible agony ! " Do you never have to permit
your child to suffer ? " But my heart is break-
ing over what can never come back to me ! "
What do you do when your child sobs with a
broken heart ? Do you not take him in your
arms, and stroke the hot head, and speak
soothing words ? What if the Heavenly Father
is anxious to do the same ?

Interpret God by His fatherhood. When
there are limitations which cannot be broken,
remember the Father placed them there ; when
ideals are unfulfilled forever, ask if your ideal
for yourself and the Father's are the same.



Interpret God by His Fatherhood. 33

"When wealth goes, something better will come
in its place. When death invades, the peace of
God waits to come in. If all things are in the
Father's hands they must work for the good of
all. And they do. The hours may seem dark,
but the years are bright. The years may seem
in shadow, but the centuries are in sunlight.
Out of the darkness of to-night is born the
brightness of to-morrow. Interpret God by
"His fatherhood.

No harm from Him can come to me
On ocean or on shore.*

This teaching of our Lord's sheds light on the
doctrine of prayer. How may God be ap-
proached? If He is a sublimated, oriental
despot, with the passions, selfishness, power of
such a being, then let men go down on their
faces before Him and never dare to look up ; if
He is only a vast, impersonal force, which
blossoms in flowers, heaves in earthquakes,
sweeps in tornadoes, and attracts in sunbeams,
let them sing songs to the glory and grandeur
of nature, but never expect an answer to
prayer, for the only response possible will be
their own faces mirrored in placid waters, or
the echo of their own voices sounding from
barren rocks. If God is believed to be harsh,
cruel, or blindly just, He will be approached
with sacrifices and penances. There are diffi-

* Whittier's Eternal Goodness.



34 Interpret God by His Fatherhood.

culties around this doctrine of prayer. How
can one Being hear so many voices ? How can
One so great care for one so small ? If every-
thing is under the reign of law, how can the
order of the universe be broken to answer the
petition of the individual? These are proper
questions, and yet apparently our Lord never
anticipated them. To Him nature was the
expression of God. What we call laws He
spoke of as the Father's will. His teaching
concerning prayer can be understood only by
remembering that all His teaching on that
subject began as follows : " After this manner
pray ye, Our Father." Prayer is intercourse
between a parent and his child. We may not
understand how our wishes can affect an imper-
sonal law, but we can understand that it may
be our Father's will to give or withhold what is
asked. Logically those who find no Father in
the universe find no efficacy in prayer. If there
is no Father prayer is an absurdity. A little
child with sweet simplicity kneels at night and
prays — it is a very pretty picture for the mother
to look upon, but if there is no Father, nothing
but force and law, that act of worship means
no more than for a chicken to tuck its head
under its wing and go to sleep.

When the solemn question arises, Is it pos-
sible to approach God with tilings which
apparently concern only individuals? — when
there is a longing for companionship and



Interpret God by His Fatherhood. 35

sympathy which earth cannot satisfy, listen to
the simple and beautiful message of Christ;
interpret God by His fatherhood.

This teaching of our Lord sheds light on the
doctrine of Judgment and Retribution. As the
doctrine of the Trinity was formulated at the
close of the third century, and that of justifica-
tion by faith at the Reformation, so that of
last things in our time seems to be in the pro-
cess of crystallisation. If any one thinks that
it has been formulated in its final expression he
knows little of Church history or of the current
movements of theological thought. Tins doc-
trine of judgment and retribution is too large
and fundamental to be turned lightly aside. It
is as unseemly to pass it over with a jest as it is
to dogmatise about it. The facts of judgment
and of retribution are clearly taught in the
Bible, but not a whit more clearly than in the
evolution of history and in the constitution of
human nature. Men debate about the time of
the judgment ; let the discussion go on, but do
not allow it to obscure the fact that there is to
be a judgment. There is a perennial fascina-
tion in the question, How long will retribution
last? The investigation is desirable, but it
ought not to be permitted to obscure the fact
that breaking of law, which is called sin, some-
how always and for ever ends in loss and death.
About the last things very little has been
revealed. Our emphasis should be on what is



36 Interpret God by His Fatherhood.

beyond question. Betribution is real, and it
will last as long as sin lasts — that is sure. But
when we come to inquire more closely — then
what? The heathen who swarm by hundreds of
millions in all lands, and who have had little
light for how long we know not — what of
them ?

That little child, born of drunken parents,
trained in a drunkard's home, surrounded by a
drunkard's associates, when he comes to man-
hood with chains on his will and fire in his
veins, and dies, what of him ?

The millions who are neglected by parents in


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