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The Pressure of the Burden on God.
Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
ISAIAH LIII. 4.
OD” according to definitions, and “God” according to revelation, present some
startling contrasts. The God of science and the God of faith manifest aspects which it is difficult to arrange in harmony. It is, in a measure, inevitable that it should be so, at least until the finite mind can comprehend the mystery of God. The Bible speaks to us of a God who lives, loves, hopes, grieves, sympathises, angers, and repents. The Book of Nature, read out by science, presents to us a great First Cause, whose one calm self-manifestation is the order of the world. The study of the law, and through the
law the mind of Him who ordained it, tends ever to enlarge and lift up our thoughts of the Being whom, meeting Him in revelation, we are tempted too readily to conceive of as after our own likeness. Is it too much for the pure devotees of science to believe, that the knowledge of the living Being whom revelation declares to us, is of infinite worth to them, enabling them to struggle successfully against a natural tendency to lose the Life in the Law, the Being in the Sum of all the manifestations of force whose complete harmony is the universe, the order of which universe the revelation of the living God in His man-ward relations, as unveiled in the Scripture, seems to the scientific eye, at first sight, to disturb, if not to destroy.
It is the very heart of those man-ward relations to which I call your earnest attention now.
My positions are these :
I. The Lord-electing to perpetuate the sinful race, to endure all the sorrow which Heaven would look upon, and the question which would fall upon His government through the existence of a world so full of wrong and wretchedness, in a universe whose order was His charge-stooped at once, in infinite, tender pity, to lift the burden, and to become a fellow-wayfarer in the sorrowful pilgrimage to which man had doomed himself by his sin.
This may seem strong language; but if redemption means anything, it means this — God sharing from the first the burden of humanity, and taking on Himself the full pressure of the load which He still left to press upon the world. Remember that one word had ended the whole experiment. God had created man upright, free as an angel to serve Him. He had created him for Himself, to rule as His regent in this inferior world. And man elected not to be His regent. He elected to rule himself, and to defy God. He elected a life of discord with God and the creation; he elected to be an instrument of confusion where God made him to be a keystone of order, and most righteously the blow might have fallen, and the wrecks of the abortive experiment might have been crushed out into the everlasting night. None could have questioned the righteousness of the doom. The history would, in that case, simply have been that of an abortion, buried quickly out of sight, vanished from before the eye of the universe for ever. .
But this was not the election of Heaven. God drove Adam forth into the wilderness, and ordained that he should beget sons in his own image, to be the heirs of his sinful nature, and to press on to its final issues of misery the experiment of freedom which he had begun. The sin being there, God elected not to destroy the sinner, but to spare him
to be the parent of children who should work out the problem to the fatal issue, and drink the cup of bitterness which Adam's transgression had mingled for man to the very dregs.
That was God's decree. And now imagine that the decree had ended there—that no thought of redemption had entered into the mind of God. How if His decree had been that men were to be born, generation after generation, to sin and to suffer in an everwidening circle of corruption and misery ; the race rotting morally while multiplying physically, born, nursed, and buried, in an atmosphere of foul and fetid decay. Born, too, to sin and suffer thus by no election of their own, dependent on another's will for their very existence—an existence which must inevitably become a curse to them—a curse which they would never be able to shake off, which would blacken and deepen through eternity. Picture this, it is a vision of horror. Terrible as the actual life of the world has been and is, even with the promise to light the present and irradiate the future, the vision of a world like this, doomed to live on without one gleam of hope, to rot without one pulse of regenerating life, would be purely horrible. This earth would then become the horror of horrors of the universe, and the God who could perpetuate a race to suffer these miseries would be a demon rather than a God. And to man ignorant
of redemption, the author of this terrible worldsystem seems to be a demon. Devil-worship is the most powerful of the Pagan worships of the world.
Quite other and higher, and more godlike than man's highest idea of God, are His thoughts to us-ward. Dooming man to the sorrowful life of the wilderness, sparing him to sin and to suffer, and to be the parent of others who should sin and suffer, He stooped at once and lifted the burden which else had been crushing; and He made man understand, as He drove him forth from Eden, that He would meet him in the wilderness, would share its burdens, cares, and sorrows, and become his fellow in all but the sin of the life to which he had been driven forth by his Lord.
<And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake ; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee ; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken : for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. iii. 17-19.)
I am persuaded that we make too little of the measure in which God entered into the life of man from the very hour of the transgression, as ex