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striven to believe that Jesus reserved Father
for the use of His disciples ; but an ingenuous
person could hardly make the discovery in the
Gospels. One searches in vain to find that
Jesus had an esoteric word for His intimates,
and an exoteric for the people, saying Father
to John and Judge to the publicans. It had
been amazing if Jesus were able to employ
alternatively two views of God according to
His audience, speaking now as an Old Testa-
ment Prophet, now as the Son of God. It is
recorded in the Gospels, 'Then spake Jesus to
the multitude and His disciples, saying, . . . One
is your Father, which is in heaven.* This at-


tempt to restrict the intention of Jesus is not
of yesterday ; it was tlic invention of the Phar-
isees. They detected the universal note in
Jesus* teaching ; they resented His unguarded
charity. Their spiritual instincts were not
wide, but they were very keen, within a limited
range, and the Pharisees judged with much
correctness that the teaching of Jesus and the
privileges of Judaism were inconsistent. If a
publican was a son of God, what advantage
had a Pharisee ? It was natural that they
should murmur : we are now thankful that
they criticised the Master. Jesus made His
defence in His three greatest parables, and in
the Parable of the Prodigal Son He defined
the range of the Divine Fatherhood beyond
reasonable dispute. His deliverance was given
with deliberation — in Jesus* most finished par-
able ; the parable was created for a definite
purpose — to vindicate Jesus' intercourse with
sinners. It contains Jesus* most complete de-
scription of a sinner — from his departure to his
return ; with emphasis it declares that sinner a
son of God — a ' son was lost and is found.*
Between the son in the far country and the
son at home is an immense difference ; but if


he had not been a son from home, there had
been no home for his return. The possibihty
of salvation Ues in sonship. It would not be
fair to rest any master doctrine on a single par-
able, were it not that the parable is Jesus'
definition of Fatherhood, given in answer to
the practical challenge of privilege, were it not
that it simply crystallises the whole teaching
of Jesus on God from His boyhood to His
death. If Jesus did not teach a Divine
Fatherhood embracing the Race, then He used
words to conceal thought, and one despairs of
ever understanding our Master.

When Jesus speaks of Fatherhood, it is al-
most a stupidity to explain that He is not
thinking of any physical relation — the ' off-
spring ' of the heathen poets, and that Father
is not a synonym for Creator. Jesus rested
His own Sonship on community of character.
God was love, for He gave His only Son, and
Jesus was love, for He gave Himself. He rea-
lised His Sonship in community of service.
'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.*
The bond between son and father in the spirit-
ual world is ethical. It is perfect between the
Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity : it is


only a suggestion between a sinner and God.
As one can detect some trace of likeness be-
tween a father and his son, although the son
may have played the fool, and defiled the
fashion of his countenance, so the most de-
graded and degenerate of human outcasts still
bears the faint remains of the Divine image.
The capability of repentance is the remains of
righteousness ; the occasional aspirations after
goodness are the memories of home ; the rec-
ognition of right and wrong is an afifinity to the
mind of God. The sonship is hidden in Zac-
chaius and Mary Magdalene — a mere possibility ;
in St. John and St. Paul it is revealed — a beau-
tiful actuality, so that this paradox is only the
deeper truth that one may be, and yet become,
a son, as the ethical likeness is acknowledged
and cleansed. Jesus' message was, 'You are a
son.* As soon as it was believed, Jesus gave
power to live as a son with God.

With this single word * Father,' Jesus in-
stantly defines the relation of man and God,
and illuminates theology. He transfers the
Divine idea from the schools, where they discuss
the Sovereignty of God, to the hearth, where
the little children can say ' Our Father' with


understanding. It was a felicitious image
which suddenly appropriated for theology the
analogies of love and the associations of home ;
which teaches us to argue with irresistible force
what my father on earth would not do because
it is evil my Father in heaven will not do ;
what my father here will do of good, that and
more my Father above will do. Granted that
this is anthropomorphic reasoning, how else
can we argue than from the good in us to the
better in God ? Granted that this analogy is
faint, that only invests it with more winsome
attraction. What an astounding gaucherie it
has been to state the intimate relation between
God and the soul in the language of criminal
law, with bars, prisoners, sentences. This ter-
minology has two enormous disadvantages. It
is unintelligible to any one who is not a crimi-
nal or a lawyer ; it is repulsive to any one who
desires to love God. Take it at the highest, it
was the spirit of Moses. Without disparage-
ment to a former dispensation, it has been su-
perseded by the spirit of Jesus.

One is not astonished that some of Jesus*
deepest sayings are still unfathomed, or that
some of His widest principles are not yet ap-


plied. Jesus is the Eternal Son, and the ages
overtake Him slowly. One is a^^hast to dis-
cover that the doctrine which Jesus put in the
forefront of His teaching and laboured at with
such earnestness did not leave a trace on the
dominant theology of the early Church, and for
long centuries passed out of the Christian con-
sciousness. Had it not been for the Lord's
Prayer and, in a sense, the three Creeds, no
witness had been left for the Fatherhood in
Christian doctrine and worship. The Anglican
communion has thirty-nine articles, with one on
oaths, one on the 4escent into hell, one on the
marriage of priests, one on how to avoid people
that are excommunicate, and not one on the
Fatherhood. The Presbyterian communion
has a confession with thirty-three chapters,
which deal in a trenchant manner with great
mysteries, but there is not one expounding the
Fatherhood of God. It was quite allowable
that theology should formulate doctrines on
subjects Jesus never mentioned, such as original
sin ; and elaborate theories on facts Jesus left
in their simplicity, such as His sacrifice. These
speculations are the function of that science,
but it is inexcusable that the central theme of


Jesus' teaching should have been ignored or
minimised. This silence, from the date of the
Greek fathers to the arrival of the modern
Broad Churchman, has been more than an
omission ; it has been a heresy.

It is an endless consolation that our Master's
words are indestructible and eternal. Certain
ideas of Jesus disappeared, and seemed to have
died ; they were not dead, they were only
sown. When their due time came they awoke
to life, and it is now spring-time with the
Fatherhood. The disciples of Jesus owe a debt
that can never be paid to three men that have
brought us back to the mind of our Master.
One was Channing, for whose love to Jesus one
might be tempted to barter his belief ; the
second was Maurice, most honest and con-
scientious of theologians ; and the third was
Erskine of Linlathen, who preached the Father-
hood to every one he met, from Thomas Carlyle
to Highland shepherds. This sublime truth
received at first the same treatment from the
nineteenth century as from the first. Its in-
herent grace has not been an immediate com-
mendation ; its utter reasonableness has been
an indirect provocation. But the spirit of Jesus


has been working in men age after age, and it
is now evident that the name for God that lay
in Jesus' heart is to be accHmatised in the
Christian consciousness.

Two persons hesitate to accept the Father-
hood in its fulness who are neither biassed by
spiritual pride nor are disloyal to Jesus. With
one it is an ethical difficulty, that stands in the
way ; he has a rooted suspicion that the asser-
tion of God's Fatherhood means the denial of
His authority, and that we shall exchange the
Holy One of Israel for a magnified Eli. Certain
advocates of Jesus' idea have themselves to
blame for this misapprehension, since they have
invested the 'Holy Father' of Jesus, whose
Name is ' hallowed,' with a cloud of sickly
sentiment, making Him a God too weak to
rule, too soft-hearted to punish. If this con-
ception should obtain, Christianity would
deserve to lose her hold on the conscience, and
morality would have to fight for very existence.
Jesus is not responsible for this helpless Deity,
this pitiable descent from the God of the
prophets. With Jesus, the Father was Lord of
heaven and earth, who ' seeth in secret,' and
holds the times in His hand, who has not only


prepared the ' many mansions,' but also the
cleansing fires of Gehenna. No judge is so
omniscient as a father, no despot so absolute.
The Father of the Sermon on the Mount is not
less awful than the God of the Ten words, nor
is the conscience of St. John less strenuous
than the conscience of Moses.

The second objection is practical, and carries
much force, for it simply comes to this, that
experience is a denial of the Fatherhood. One
admires the Galilean dreamer with his Father-
God, and His charming illustrations of the lilies
and the birds, but this, one says, is an idyll, and
life is real. What signs of paternal government
can be found in the martyrdom of man from
the first days of history to the last war, in the
hideous sufferings of slavery, or in the equal
miseries of great cities? With such a record
before one, it is certainly open to argue that
Jesus was too optimistic. Granted, but that
does not close the question. With the record
of His own life before one, it is not open to
conclude Jesus was wrong. He drank the
bitterest cup ; He suffered the shamefullest
death, and yet reconciled the incalculable
tragedy of His life with the love of His Father.


Jesus did not regard suffering as the contradic-
tion of love ; it was one of its methods. When
Jesus said Father on the Cross, it may have
been a pathetic delusion, but it was the delusion
of Him who of all the Race knew God best.

One joyfully anticipates the place this final
idea of God will have in the new theology.
Criticism has cleared the ground and gathered
its building materials. A certain conception of
God must be the foundation and give shape to
the whole structure. No one can seriously
doubt that it will be the Fatherhood, and that
Jesus' dearest thought will dominate theology.
No doctrine of the former theology will be lost ;
all will be recarved and refaced to suit the new
architecture. Sovereignty will remain, not that
of a despot, but of a father; the Incarnation
will not be an expedient, but a consummation ;
the Sacrifice will not be a satisfaction, but a
reconciliation : the end of Grace will not be
standing, but character ; the object of punish-
ment will not be retribution, but regeneration.
Mercy and justice will no longer be antinomies ;
they will be aspects of Love, and the principle
of human probation will be exchanged for the
principle of human education.


One sees already the place which the Father-
hood will have in the new life into which the
race in every land is entering. While piety
imagined God as the Father of a few and the
Judge of the" rest, humanity was belittled and
Pharisaism reigned ; slavery was defended from
the Bible, and missions were counted an imper-
tinence. When He is recognised as the uni-
versal Father, and the outcasts of Humanity as
His prodigal children, every effort of love will
be stimulated, and the Kingdom of God will
advance by leaps and bounds. As this sublime
truth is believed, national animosities, social
divisions, religious hatreds and inhuman
doctrines will disappear. No class will regard
itself as favoured : no class will feel itself re-
jected, for all men everywhere will be embraced
in the mission of Jesus and the love of the




The difference between the eternal vision of
God and the temporal outlook of man has been
compared to one standing on a hill with the
landscape in its length and breadth before him,
and another crossing the plain in a swiftly mov-
ing train, on whom the landscape breaks part
by part. This ingenious illustration, after it has
served its purpose to show the relation of eter-
nity and time, may be utilised to suggest that
we also have an eternal kinship. We retain
what we have seen after it has vanished ; we
anticipate what has yet to be seen before it ap-
pears. It is the present which is not yet ours,
since it is only being transferred to the exposed
plate of experience — the past and the future are
carried in our consciousness. One faculty of
our mysterious nature records, as by an auto-
matic register, the experiences of yesterday, so


that not one deed, or word, or thought is lost— -
not one but can be reproduced by some com-
monplace spell, the crowing of a cock at early-
dawn, or the fragrance of dried rose-leaves in
some old-fashioned drawing-room. Another
pictures with minute prophetic power the ex-
periences of to-morrow, so that the distant hori-
zon is golden with inspiring illusions, or black
with brooding anxieties. We are the slaves of
memory and imagination, but in the conflict for
the control of the soul imagination is easily vic-
tor. Hope rather than repentance is the instru-
ment of salvation.

Imagination is the faculty which represents
the future, foresight is the quality which pos-
sesses it ; and foresight is one of the standards
of character. Without foresight no one can
claim to be of serious account — he may take
lessons from an ant ; with it no one need de-
spair of any achievement — he has outrun time.
Foresight confers distinction on every effort of
man, and raises it a degree. It elevates econ-
omy into providence ; it broadens business into
enterprise ; with this addition politics become
statesmanship, and literature prophecy. Life
gains perspective and atmosphere ; it is rein-


forced by unseen hopes and rewards. The bur-
den of the future becomes a balance in life, tem-
pering the intoxication of joy with the cares of
to-morrow, and softening the bitterness of sor-
row with its compensations. Foresight, send-
ing on its spies into the land of promise, returns
to brace and cheer every power of the soul, and
becomes the mother of all hardy and strenuous
virtues, a self-restraint, and self-denial, of sacri-
fice and patience. He who seizes to-day may
have pleasure ; he who grasps to-morrow shall
have power.

An admirable work of modern art shows
Jesus standing at the door of a carpenter's shop,
and stretching Himself after a long day's labour.
The setting sun falling on His outspread arms
makes the shadow of the cross, and carries ter-
ror into Mary's heart. The attitude of the
body w^as typical of the attitude of the soul.
Jesus grasped at the future, as He seemed also
to carry with Him a mysterious past. Before
Him extended the long distances of the Divine
Will, and He arranged His life for Calvary.
When a pious scholar came by night to discuss
His new ideas, Jesus could not explain the
Kingdom of God without a reference to His


cross. As He spake in the synagogue of Ca-
pernaum after the miracle of theloaves, His sacri-
fice rose before Him, and the bread of Hfe be-
came His Flesh and His Blood. On the way
to Jerusalem He drew His disciples aside, and,
while the people passed in their carelessness,
Jesus described the tragedy that was at hand.
The sight of certain foreign Jews, full of curios-
ity about this new Master, suggested to Him
that throne from which He was to rule the
world, and He saw across His Passion the vic-
tory of His Love. In the upper room His vi-
sion had passed beyond the cross, and He com-
manded that the sacrament of His Body and
Blood should be celebrated till His second ad-
vent. After His resurrection He gave the first
earnest of the Holy Ghost, and anticipated the
spread of the Evangel throughout the world.
With Jesus the present was ever eclipsed by the
future, so that while the multitude would have
made Him a King, He saw Himself forsaken
on a cross ; and while He was about to be cruci-
fied. He was promising to return for the judg^
ment of the world. He set His face sted-
fastly, lifted above the ebb and flow of cir.
Cumstances, because the Divine Will was


ever revealing itself, peak above peak, to the
ages of ages.

Possessed by the spirit of to-morrow, it was
natural that our Master should labour to imbue
His disciples with the same ; but on a first read-
ing His teaching presents a perplexing paradox.
This Man, who was born amid the narrow
circumstances of poverty, and acquainted with
its exacting cares, belittles ordinary prudence to
an audience of country folk, and gives counsels
of perfection about an easy mind. With the
scanty wages of Galilee, and the charge of little
children, they were to allow to-morrow to take
care of itself, and not even concern themselves
about the bare necessaries of life. He saw His
chosen disciples fling away their only means of
livelihood with approval, and sent them forth
on a mission, as bare as the monks of St.
Francis. If a young man won His love. He
did not hesitate to demand the sacrifice of his
possessions, and He pursued, with bitter mock-
ing, rich men who doubled their investments.
As for Himself, He was dependent on the
charity of pious women, and had to work a
miracle to pay the temple tax. He seems to
justify the light heart of imprudence, and the


recklessness of impulse, to condemn prudence
as unbelief, and enterprise as crass foolishness.
Parallel with this depreciation of foresight,
runs an endless exhortation to its practice. The
Kingdom of God as the Chief Good is to be the
first object in life ; it is the pearl of great price
which one ought to secure as the best of all his
possessions. It was wisdom to humble one's-
self as a little child, because the child-character
stood highest in the coming State ; and better
to take the lowest room at the feast of life,
since the lowest would be the highest in the
end. If one did sell all he had for Christ's
sake, he would have treasure in heaven ; and
they who abandoned their best in His service,
had the promise of a hundred-fold return. It
was shrewder to labour for the Living Bread
than for the meat that perisheth, because it
would endure ; and to place one's capital in
heaven rather than on earth, because of the
moth and rust which corrupt, and the thieves
which break through and steal. Lazarus, with
his good things on the other side, has the
advantage over Dives with his brief while of
purple and fine linen ; and as a mere matter of
profit and loss, he that saves his soul is wiser


than he who gains a world. Jesus amazes us
twice, first by casting the principle of prudence
out of common life and making no provision
for the future ; and second, by introducing the
principle of prudence into the sphere of religion,
and making the rewards of the Kingdom of
heaven a subject of calculation.

Let us remember that one of Jesus' most
convincing characteristics was a certain sound-
ness of mind, which kept Him continually in
contact with fact and life. He accepted creation
before proceeding to regeneration, and preferred
to utilise human nature rather than quarrel
with it. Foresight is an instinct which is
atrophied in criminals and wastrels, which
flourishes in workers and rulers. It may be
cultivated either within the sphere of the seen
or the unseen, and as a matter of fact has
seldom been adopted by faith. With two
worlds before His eye, Jesus proposed to shift
the vcmie of this influential motive from this
w^orld into that which is to come, and sought
to accomplish the change by starving foresight,
when expended upon the material, and foster-
ing it when devoted to the spiritual. As it is
evidently out of the question that one can


make the best of both worlds — ye cannot serve
God and Mammon, as our Master said in His
conclusive way — Jesus desired that His dis-
ciples should concentrate themselves upon the
world which remaineth.

Jesus embodied His comparative view of
material and spiritual foresight in a parable
which has a double distinction. The Unjust
Steward is the only parable of Jesus which
gives for one instant a shock of moral offence
to the reader; it is also the only one which
illustrates the action of the principle of fore-
sight on two different ethical levels. It is quite
allowable for us to be surprised that Jesus
should choose a case of deliberate and clever
fraud for a parable ; it is scarcely pardonable
that any intelligent person should suppose that
Jesus approved or condoned the fraud. One is
indeed struck by Jesus' felicity in selecting a
set of circumstances which will so certainly
excite intellectual curiosity, and so perfectly
bring out His point. Within the briefest
space the place of foresight in human action
is defined, while its lower application is
skilfully depreciated, and its higher power
fully enforced. It is Jesus* most incisive de-


liverance on worldliness, and other-worldli-

The parable is a palimpsest whose surface
presents a story in commercial life, so ignoble
and uninviting that it does not deserve record,
and contains beneath half-hidden, half-revealed,
a gospel of Jesus. But this palimpsest has a
peculiarity of its own, because the upper legend
is not an obliteration of the lower truth, but
rather its introduction — the envelope which
holds the message. One ought not to erase the
legend before he has mastered it, because in
that case he will miss the key to the interpreta-
tion of the truth. This indolent and luxurious
steward, without conscience or manliness, is the
lowest type of a man of this world. The un-
expected discovery of his embezzlement, and
his threatened dismissal from office, are the
sudden changes which affect the ease and
comfort of the present life. His vivid anticipa-
tions of the hardness of life for a poor and dis-
graced man show how selfishness can be served
by imagination. And the fellow's fraudulent
device is an example of insurance against com-
ing risks, and of adaptation to new circum-
stances. Jesus did not choose an honourable


merchant because He required the dismissal for
His parable, and He desired to invest sheer
worldliness with a dash of contempt. This was
a petty rascal — a mere fox of a man — but he
saved himself, according to his lights, by fore-

The under writing on the parchment corre-
sponds with the upper, save for one or two sig-
nificant blanks, and is a translation of the same
story into another language. This self-indul-
gent steward is replaced by the disciple of Jesus
with his cross. Death will release him from
this inhospitable life and restore him to his
home. Yet his imagination has never realised
what shall be the splendour of his spiritual
environment. And he is not striving with all
his might so to till the opportunities of this
life that he shall reap their harvest in the life
which is to come. That shallow trickster will
sell his conscience to secure a roof above his
head for a brief space ; but Jesus* disciple will
not bestir himself to make certain of everlasting
habitations. It was to Jesus quite astonishing
either that any one should take much thought
what might befall him in this world which
passeth away, or that any one should be indif-


fercnt to the infinite attraction of the world
which abideth. The parable is a eulogium on
foresight, and a plea that its whole force should
be used to secure the * everlasting habitations.*
It is Jesus' argument for ' other-worldliness.*

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