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The God that Jesus saw online

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The Guafdian. — " Mr. Garrett Horder has given us in this little
volume a series of consoling and encouraging suggestions as to
the conditions of the future life — that is, the future life as
prepared for by a Christian course on earth. It is a book that
would be useful to minds clouded with misgivings or labouring
under inherited misapprehensions. What is taught here is sane
and Scriptural and on the side of a ' larger ' yet reverent-minded
hope. . . . The book is good, and will do good."

The Manchester Guardian. — " Mr. Garrett Horder's small
volume of sermons ' The Other World ' deserves some grateful
recognition for the boldness with which it deals with one of the
unrealities of traditional religious language. The whole subject
of immortality has become clouded for many people by the failure
of the mediaeval conception of heaven to appeal to the modem
mind. What religion needs, especially in its devotional utterance
in prayer and hymn, is a new picture-language cut adrift from the
traditional apocalyptic symbolism, which has lost its meaning,
and a form of teaching in harmony with the highest moral
judgment. This is the essence of Mr. Horder's plea in these
sermons, in which outspoken sincerity is tempered with reverence
for the hallowed associations and the instinctive pieties of the

The Scotsman. — " The thirteen thoughtful sermons of which it
is made up expound a liberal eschatology, hardly orthodox
indeed, but full of interest to readers who like to have the
traditions of Christianity about immortality and the hereafter
refreshed and broadened by new ideas and the spirit of this time."

The Sunday Strand. — " The purpose of this charmingly-
written and concise little volume of sermons is ' to clear away
unreal ideas as to the nature of the Other- World and to establish
ethically tenable ones in their place. . . .' It is sometimes
daring, but it is always devout, sane, and strong. Its arguments
are massive, and its illustrations illuminative, and from first page
to last it is an eminently readable book. . . . By all means buy
and read this book."

The Christian World. — " Mr. Horder's book answers to a real
need ; and there is satisfaction in the reflection that such ideas
as he expresses are gradually taking possession of the average
religious mind,"




}' BY OC^


Correct the portrait by the living face —

Man's God by God's God in the mind of man."

Robert Browning





•43 L


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Preaching before the University of Cambridge in the
year 1846, Frederick Myers of Keswick — one of the
seers of the nineteenth century — said : "I fear it
may be that in some degree our theology has been
impairing our religion," and then he added, " the
remedy for this is a firmer and fuller faith in the
highest Idea of God." ^

No words could better express my own feeling

in writing these pages. I have always felt that the

one thing vital to a true religion is the moral and

spiritual perfection of its God ; and I have, therefore,

refused to give assent or to make known anything

I out of harmony with such perfection, even though

J it may have been incluc^ed In the Creeds, Confessions,

' or dogmas of the Cliurches. 'Indeed, the one test

I have applied to' every'doctrine has been : " Is it

: consistent with the idea of perfect Fatherhood in

God ? " For I h^ve aJ ways btilieved that the central

and supreme purpose of Jesus was to reveal this

perfect God whom He called and encouraged men to

• call "Father."

\ 1 Sermons before the University of Cambridge by the late

* Frederic Myers, M.A., Perpetual Curate of St. John's, Keswick,
1852, p. 22.




In the assurance of this perfect Fatherhood of
God I have found the resting-place for my soul, and
I am anxious that others who have not, should find
this place of rest. Long experience of life has
shown me that many obstacles bar the way thereto,
and, therefore, in the pages which follow I have
done what little I could to remove such obstacles.
If in any small measure I have succeeded my heart
will be made glad.

Whilst I alone am responsible for the beliefs
expressed, I am greatly indebted to Miss Maud
Russell Beasley for unsparing devotion of time
and thought, to the Rev. Gerald H. Paulet, B.A.,
Oxon, for valuable suggestions, and to Dr. Hastings
Rashdall, Dean of Carlisle, of whose wide and
accurate learning I was glad to avail myself,
and who with great kindness read the manuscript
and sent me notes of much value. To all these I
offer my most hearty thanks.



I. His Non-intervention
II. Unfatherly Elements in Nature

III. Certain Passages in Scripture.

IV. Creeds and Confessions .

Creedless Saints


I. The Perfect Father Jesus saw . i

II. The Revealing of God's Perfection

through His Requirements. . 21







I. Jesus calling Men to this Perfec-
tion 117

II. The Open Doors of God . . .139





I. The Right Attitude to the Word . 150

11. The Perils of Bibliolatry . . 165

III. A Homogeneous Bible . . . 181

IV. The Ever-inspiring Spirit . . 196


A Forward Look 208






That was a very wise collier who, when leading a
Bible-class of his mates, said : " Whatever we do,
lads, let us keep clear the character of God." It
seems, indeed, a positive duty for all who think on
this great matter to reach the truest possible con-
clusions. As Dr. Wicksteed says: "For inasmuch
as a man who has formed a wholly false conception
of God and feels emotionally moved towards this
creature of his imagination is not really loving God,
it follows that, in proportion^as our conception of
God approaches the truth, so our love is indeed love
of God, and not of an idol." ^ It is said that Queen
Victoria idohsed her husband, the Prince Consort ;
but the Prince did not want to be idolised, he wanted
to be understood. The Queen never understood
him, and the Prince was a lonely man to the end.
Would it not be true to say that the Great Father
longs to be understood — that is, in an ethical and

^ Reactions between Dogma and Philosophy, p. 261,


spiritual sense apprehended — rather than idolised,
that He would rather be apprehended as to His vital
relationship to men than ignorantly and so wrongly
worshipped by His children, since to apprehend Him,
in even a far-off way, would draw them to something
far higher than idohsing — to response of heart and
obedience of Hfe.

As I have gone over the representations men
have made of Him in the metaphysics of the Greek
and the legaUsm of the Latin, culminating in the
awful articles of the Westminster Confession of
Faith, I could not help feehng how the great Fatherly
heart must have suffered. Far beyond anything
else, the conception of the character of his God
determines the nature of a man's rehgion. That is
usually estimated by the creed he recites, or the
mode in which he worships, whether through
extemporary or hturgical forms, with a simple or
ornate ritual, but far deeper and more influential is
the character of God which rises before his mind
and moves his heart.

This has been controverted by pointing to men
and women with the most terrible conceptions of the
character of God, who have yet lived very pure and
noble lives. " No one who has considered the subject
will deny this. With even the vision of a Sultanic God
before their eyes, many have pursued with steadfast
purpose the way of righteousness, and have left the
memory of very holy lives. But a closer acquaint-
ance with them would have brought to light the
fact that' their hearts ached at the thought of God


which filled their minds, and that, amid all their
fidelity, their service was that of servants and did
not rise, or rose only fitfully, in moments of ecstasy,
to the joyousness and freedom of sons. Within
the circle of my own acquaintances there have been
many devoted and holy lives, which called forth
m}^ warmest admiration, but all the while beneath
the surface there was often a heart agony, a distress
of mind, caused by their wrong vision of God, which
made lives, nobly lived and which should have been
filled with joy, to be shadowed by the vision which
filled their minds and troubled their hearts. And
only when the true vision of the Father which
Christ revealed rose before their eyes did they
pursue the way of holiness, not with the trembHng
feet of fear, but with the gladness of those whose
vision had wakened a love which casts out the fear
which hath torment. No sight can be sadder than
that of men and women steadily pursuing the way of
holiness, but with a distorted vision of God that robs
them of much of a joy which is rightly theirs, and
which would be theirs if they saw God, not through
the unworthy doctrines which men have framed of
God, but through the great reveaUng of Him who,
above and beyond all others, really knew God.

Two incidents in the career of Thomas Erskine
of Linlathen may serve to show how great a change
is wrought in mind and heart by realisation of the
Fatherhood of God :

" He once met a shepherd in the Highlands, to
whom, ' in that tone which combined in so peculiar


a manner sweetness and command/ he put the
unlooked-for question, * Do you know the Father ? '
The shepherd, taken aback, said nothing ; but the
wonderful tone and personality of the questioner
made so deep an impression upon his mind that he
could not get past the question put to him, nor yet
dismiss it from his mind, with the remarkable
result that, meeting Mr. Erskine many years after-
wards, the shepherd recognised him at once, and said,

* I know the Father now.' " ^

The other incident may show that the surest way
to lead to confidence in this Fatherhood is the human
one indicated by Jesus : "If ye, being evil, know
how to give good things unto your children, how
much more will your Father which is in heaven
give good things to them that ask Him ? "

" Mr. Erskine was once taken by Lady Matilda
Maxwell to see a farmer of whose recovery there
was no hope, but who was terribly afraid, and said,

* I cannot face the idea of dying.' To calm his mind,
Mr. Erskine asked, * Would you like me to go with
you ? ' which called forth the obvious reply, ' How
can a man go with another when he is dying ? '
But, as the farmer grew more excited, Mr. Erskine
asked, " Would you like me to go with you if I
could ? ' 'Of course I would,' said the farmer.
' Why ? ' asked Mr. Erskine. * Oh, because that
now we are such friends, I am sure you wouldn't let
anything very bad happen to me.' On this said
Mr. Erskine, * Do you think I am better than God ?
Anything wliich you hke in me comes out from Him,
for I did not make myself. Depend upon it that
He is better than I am, and likes you better too ;

* Erskine of Linlathen, by H. E. Henderson, p. 122.


depend upon it that He will not let anything very
bad happen to you. Believe me, it will not be so
bad as you think ; believe me, it will be easier. Just
put it into His hands, just leave yourself with Him,
and I am sure that He will see you through it better
than I could/ Next day Mr. Erskine returned,
and the farmer said, * I have been thinking, sir, of
what you said, and I find something in it ; and I am
tr5dng to lift it from myself and put it upon God, and
I feel a kind of help in it.' A few days after, when
death came, he met it not only without fear, but
with hope and even triumph." ^

It should be enough to point all walking in the
shadow of unworthy ideas of God to the clear,
definite, emphatic declaration of Christ of His
perfect Fatherhood. But, unhappily, there are
often many old and deeply rooted ideas of God in
the mind which prevent the entrance of the nobler
ones presented by Christ ; and there are many things
both in the world and in Scripture which seem to
bar the way to the great Evangel of Christ as to
this perfect Fatherhood. And the purpose of the
pages which follow is to open the road by clearing
away the obstacles to the full assurance of Christ's
great declaration, " Be ye therefore perfect, even as
your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

Two prefatory remarks must be made to set this
declaration in its proper light. The first is, that the
perfection here spoken of is that of a Father. There
are varieties of perfection. There is the perfection

^ Present-day Papers, edited by Bishop Ewing. Third Series
pp. 17-19.


of the craftsman, reached when his work cannot
be better done. There is the perfection of the
judge whose judgments are just. There is the
perfection of the ruler whose rule is for his people's
good ; besides many others which need not be named.
And a man may be perfect in any one of these, but
imperfect in other respects.

Now, the perfection here spoken of is that of a
Father. Of course, God must be perfect in every
respect ; but it is to the perfection of His Father-
hood we are here pointed — that is, perfection in His
relation to us, His children on earth.

The second thing is, that the name " Father " really
stands for parent, and includes the fatherly and motherly
element. We males have no right to monopolise
parentage, either in the home or in our idea of God.
Theodore Parker, the great American preacher,
always spoke of God as Father-Mother God. And
he was right. The prophet discerned this when he
put into the mouth of Jehovah the declaration,
wonderful for that age, " As one whom his mother
comforteth, so will I comfort you." That should
bring into our thought a tender element, quite
lacking in those who always speak of Him as the
Almighty, which is Society's word, and reveals the
hardness and crudeness of its idea of Him.

Thousands of hearts are troubled because they
have had thrust upon them the vision of a far from
perfect God — one, indeed, who is said to have taken
their loved ones from their side in the recent war,
or taken their babies from the nurture of their


bosom, as many a sorrowing parent has been told
by unthinking comforters. Such terrible caricatures
of God as these have not only been turning hearts
away from rehgion, but have caused inexpressible
anguish. And cases have come under my notice
in which, when such misrepresentations of God have
been wisely and tenderly removed, a great agony of
heart has been healed, which has found expression
even outwardly in the features of the face.

It seems almost incredible that nearly two
thousand years after Jesus declared the perfection
of God's Fatherhood refutation of such misrepre-
sentations should be needed ■; but so it is ! And
there is no truth which followers of Jesus should
more clearly and vigorously make known than this

Protestants have often taken more care of the
character of their Bible than of their God. Chilling-
worth's declaration that the Bible, and the Biblealone,
is the rehgion of Protestants is a sign of this. Catho-
lics have often taken more care of the character of
their Church than of their God, and thus the Church
has practically become their God. A nobleman who
claimed to be a good Catholic declared to a relative
of mine that he " did not believe in Christ or the
Bible, but he believed in the Church, and the Church,
when he died, would see him through." He will
surely find in the other world that neither his Church
nor any other Church will have any such power.
But the supreme matter is the character of God. If,
before men's eyes everywhere, the vision of a perfect


Father could be lifted and kept, it would gradually
but surely waken the sense of brotherhood among
men which just now is the supreme need of the
world. No effort should be too great to banish
the hard visions of God's character which have
held the minds of men and to put in their place that
perfect fatherhood which was the very centre of
Christ's teaching and the very goal of His ministry.
But, though nearly two thousand years have elapsed
since He declared the perfection of this Fatherhood,
it is even now rarely realised in its fulness.

In his sermon to the Church Congress of 1920 at
Southend, the Archbishop of Canterbury preached
on the Fatherhood of God. He said :

" Less than a hundred years ago George Canning
told this story to a listening House of Commons :
He had gone, he said, a few Sundays before to a
poor httle Presbyterian church in Hatton Garden.
There he heard from an inconspicuous preacher —
it was Edward Irving, not yet famous — a new and
startling phrase which had haunted him ever since —
the Fatherhood of God."

The Archbishop then said :

'' The underlying thought of the phrase which
came to him so arrestingly was, of course, in no
sense new. But, strangely enough, the actual
phrase does not seem to have been previously in

Now the Archbishop is wrong in his story. Can-
ning did not hear the phrase — it was reported to
him by Sir James Mackintosh, who had heard Irving


in his prayer speak of some orphans as " thrown upon
the Fatherhood of God. ' ' But the Archbishop makes
a more serious mistake when he says that the thought
was in no sense new. It was new to that time. If
the thought had been there, it would have found,
as thought always does, some phrase for its expres-
sion. Indeed, even in the earlier years of my own
life, the Fatherhood of God was regarded as heresy,
and men were thrust from their pulpits for pro-
claiming it. That was the case with Dr. McLeod
Campbell, who was ejected from the church at Row,
on the Gareloch, and Alexander J. Scott, who,
thrust from the ministry for the same reason, became
the first Principal of Owens College, which is now
the University of Manchester. Through the fidelity
to the teaching of Christ of such and other Uke-
minded men, the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God
has almost ceased to be regarded as a heresy ; but
it is still imperfectly accepted and applied, and
there are still many things which are urged against it.
In one sense the Fatherhood of God has been
known from the time of Christ to our own ; and in
a certain sporadic way, it was known and proclaimed
before His time by the Hebrew prophets, to say
nothing concerning hints of it in quite other realms.
And all down the Christian centuries it could not
have been wholly missed, since it forms the preface
to the Lord's Prayer, which has always held its
place in and even beyond the Church. But from
the earliest down to almost our own time it has
rarely if ever reached the fulness and vitality of


meaning which really belongs to the idea of Father-
hood. It would be difficult to find, till quite recent
times, those who extended it to the whole race
which owes its existence to God. Everywhere, or
nearly everywhere, it was limited to those who
believed or had been baptized or were in some way
witliin the pale of the Church. Whilst, beyond this,
those who beUeved in the Fatherhood seemed to be
able at the same time to beheve things absolutely
incompatible with it. For example, Fatherhood,
in any real sense, rules out the idea of everlasting
punishment, even to those unresponsive to its calls
and persuasions. And it also rules out what has
even yet been rarely realised, the need for any
persuasions to obtam the mercy of God. All that
the earthly father, in spite of his imperfections,
demands as a condition of his mercy to an offending
child, is such sorrow for wrongdoing that his for-
giveness can be rightly given and received. But
men beUeved, or thought they believed, in the
Divine Fatherhood when all the while they regarded
Jesus, not as the expression or commendation, but as
the persuasion of that Father to forgiveness of His
repentant children. In this respect the Divine
Fatherhood even now is rarely apprehended in its
breadth and fulness.

As an article of the Creed, Fatherhood in God has
never been absent from the faith of the Church, but
as a vitality of experience, with all its great implica-
tions, it has even now reached but a small proportion
even of those who bear the name of Christian. And


it was not till men like Thomas Erskine, Alexander
John Scott, and McLeod Campbell were persuaded
of the Divine Fatherhood and their ideas gained
expression through preachers like Frederic Denison
Maurice and poets like George MacDonald that
the idea in its vitality and with its great implications
became the conviction of any great number of
Christian people.

When this idea of the Fatherly nature of God,
which had emerged in the teaching of the men just
named and other pioneer minds, passed out into
wider circles, it was objected that no place was found
in it for those sterner elements which find expression
in the teaching of Scripture, and that it placed on
the throne of the universe a weakly indulgent rather
than a righteous ruler. Doubtless, in the repre-
sentations of ill-balanced minds this was sometimes
the case, but it certainly was not so in the case of
the men to whom I have referred, whose vision was
of Fatherhood in its fulness and perfection. Even
in the case of earthly fatherhoods, when they reach
to high levels, there are found the characteristics of
the king and the judge ; they are at once rulers
and judges over their families, but it is love which
is the very heart of their fatherhood, and the regal
and judicial qualities are only the ways through
which love best expresses itself and reaches its end.

This is my own conception of the Fatherly nature
of God and that it works not through direct action,
rewarding and punishing from without, but, as it
were, from within, through that constitution of


Nature which ever leads to the overthrow of the evil
and the establishment of the good. The Hebrew
mind thought of the action of God as direct and
from without. The modem mind, believing quite
as fully as the Hebrew in Divine influence, regards
it as springing out of the very order of the universe,
as originally constituted by God. But, however
that may be, the vision of Divine Fatherhood
presented in these pages is not of one who loves not
wisely but too well, but of one " righteous in all His
ways and holy in all His works."

Now, there are many things in the Old Dispensation
which have wrongly been brought into the New, which
tend to conceal this perfect Fatherhood. In the pages
of the Old Testament Jehovah is mixed up with
much that is warlike. There is the record of many
campaigns, and Jehovah is said to be the Patron of
Israel and to fight on its behalf. And because of
this the name " the Lord of Hosts " has been given
to Him in the Psalms and other parts of the Old
Testament. And so the title " the Lord of Hosts "
is still applied to Him, even in our Christian dispensa-
tion. ** The Lord of Hosts is with us " was not only
the battle-cry of Cromwell and his troops, who used
the Old far more than the New Testament, but in
our Christian worship we often use the same words
when we sing of Him. It is indeed difficult to get
this fighting name for God out of even the devotional
parts of the Old Testament used in our worsliip.
And the battle stories of the Old Testament, with
their behef in Jehovah as the great Captain, have


done and are still doing much to keep alive that
fighting tendency which hinders the peace and
concord so needed by the nations of the world.

And, of course, the idea of God as the inspirer
and leader of war, and His title as the Lord of
Hosts, are absolutely out of accord with the declara-
tion of Christ of His perfect Fatherhood. The two

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Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe God that Jesus saw → online text (page 1 of 14)