صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


nature ;—all that man might thus have wished to learn, was and is revealed to him in this simple representation of God as the Father of his creatures of mankind. And Christ not only taught in so many words this great truth respecting God, but he lived a life in perfect accordance with it, as feeling it to be a reality that should influence and rule his conduct, and thus shewing by that final submission which was the triumph and glory of his career, how great a truth it was to him. Thus has it been proclaimed to us, more plainly and expressively than could perhaps in any other way have been done, that the Supreme Cause of all things, distant and inscrutable though He might else have appeared to us, is ever a Being of tender mercy, near unto us, ready to hear and to bless us,—one whose providence must have regard to the true and ultimate welfare of His children, and who therefore is entitled not merely to be feared and appeased with offerings and sacrifices, but rather to be loved and trusted and obeyed even as the most kind and honoured parent, and notwithstanding that you may be unable to perceive the wisdom or the utility of many of his ordinations affecting yourself.

The standard idea which is thus set up by Christ, evidently tends to prevent so great a diversity of thought respecting God as that which we have found naturally to prevail amidst the different conditions and classes of men. It cannot, indeed, prevent diversity altogether, so long as individual minds and powers of thought and imagination so greatly vary. But it is evident that, as the Affections and the Conscience of men become more pure and therefore more in harmony with each other, so will the Christian conception of the invisible Being be more consistently and worthily entertained. Even among the most ignorant and uncultivated classes, if it be received at all, it must tend ever to a certain uniformity and completeness of character; for whatever each mind most loves and reveres, and feels to be genuine and attractive, in the relation between


parent and child, that must in each case be transferred to the idea of God, and must tend constantly to bring nearer to one and the same self-consistent result even minds the most differently constituted and most differently educated.

We have spoken of the gradual and various development of the idea of God, as we advance from lower to higher conditions of human existence, and have seen that this is necessary consequence of the more or less complete knowledge in successive periods. The same gradual growth and development is traceable in the Scriptures also. In general terms, the oldest documents reveal the most elementary and imperfect conceptions; and you see, within certain limits, as you advance through the successive ages from Abraham to Christ, so far as we have the means of discriminating them, a progressive improvement in the ideas entertained respecting the power, the goodness, the providence, the unity and supremacy of God. So far, the Biblical history is in harmony with all that we learn from other quarters as to the progress of knowledge on the same subject. There is one respect, however, in which the former stands more entirely alone. You have in it, constantly, not only a clear recognition of the existence and power of God, but you find also that He is ever represented as distinct from and superior to material nature. That is to say, the Personality of God, as a Being altogether separate from outward things, exalted above them and able to rule and control them, is ever clearly and strongly either asserted or implied. The tendency of some forms of religious belief has been to confound, or identify, God and nature ; to make the infinite Mind but one with those blind and material forces which we see in operation around us. This lowest form of Theistic belief, if it can be called a form of it at all, is completely and remarkably excluded from the Scripture representations ; and one of the most important offices which the old Hebrew and Christian literature has for so many centuries



sustained in the world, has been in thus holding up to the view of men the great truth that God is one living Mind, a Being above and apart from material nature, and possessed of those moral attributes which enable man to approach Him with love and trust, and to look up to Him, not only as the awful and mysterious Cause of all things, but as the God and Father of his children of mankind. Nothing in the teaching of Christ can be plainer than that this was the conception of the Supreme Power which existed in his mind; and this, if anything at all, must be taken to be an essential part of the Christian revelation respecting God.

Do we ask, in conclusion, how we may best acquire and realize to our hearts, as well as to our thoughts, this great truth of God the Father of men ?

I do not know of any direction or rule that can be given for making a man feel this doctrine to be a truth, other than that which, in reference to a different subject, was given by Christ himself : “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” Seek, therefore, to know the will of God, and strive to do it. In every position in life, each individual must have some certain work of duty to perform, and need rarely be in ignorance as to what it is. And that he should do this, and not neglect it, or postpone it to some indefinite hereafter, must be God's will for him, or else that particular course of duty would not lie before him at all. To this, then, we have each to devote ourselves :-one, perhaps, to go forth into the world, and to contend manfully against many temptations or discouragements; another, to toil on in some retired path of life ; or, it may be, amidst scenes of affluence and abundance tempting to an indolent disregard of what may best serve the cause of right and truth among men; or, it may be, again, amidst scenes of adversity and sorrow, which none but He who seeth the heart can know or estimate aright. In all these varying positions of human life, there must exist to each of us the one


path of right, along which we may go, in obedience to the will of God, and from which we may not depart, without violating the dictates of conscience, and feeling, in our selfcondemnation, that we do so. And the great condition of our attainment of the full assurance of Christ's truth respecting God our Father, simply is that we pursue this path of right. And we have the testimony of devout men of many

different ages, that so it is; and that the consciousness of being children of God can only come through filial trust and submission -manifested, it may indeed be, even in coldness of heart and hardness of belief, in the first instance, but still manifested.

Nor does it require much reflection to assure us that if we were each faithful to what is known to be right and true, in all our thoughts and actions, and in all our intercourse with the world,—if we were each and all thus faithful, and could really sacrifice prejudice, and passion, and interest, to that law of duty, then a large portion of the evil and misery of life would be at once destroyed. So true it is, that the great, and perhaps only, evil of this world is Sin, and that Sin is the barrier which separates man from God, and makes him feel that he is no true child of the Father in heaven.

Were this removed, by the entire submission of man's will to God's, then would the evils and the sorrows of this life, so far as they might still oppress us, be felt to be no harsh and arbitrary infliction of an unfeeling or unthoughtful Ruler, administering the government of the world without any care for the well-being of his subject creatures ; nor any blind operation of material laws, affecting the evil and the good alike; but rather the wise and merciful dispensations of a Fatherly Providence, designed to create in us trust, and energy, and moral sensibility, and thus to train us, by the only true discipline of trial and endurance, for the more exalted service of another state of being. If we do not yet feel the great purpose of our life, and its

various scenes of good and ill, to be such as this, that should warn us in our secret hearts that we have not yet fully bent ourselves to God's will; that we do not yet seek, before all things, to do God's will; and that we, consequently, have not realized the purpose and the wish of Christ, to make us children of our Father which is in heaven.

« السابقةمتابعة »