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2. The Souls Which I Have Made
THERE is subtle charm about the thing that we have made, and this is by no means always because of its intrinsic value, but rather because we have made it ourselves.
He who has studied portrait painting and for the sake of perfecting himself in his art copies celebrated originals, puts a value on his copy, which in his estimation, the far more beautiful original does not possess.
Flowers which a lad has gathered from his own little garden are more interesting to him than a bouquet from the florist. The country gentleman prefers vegetables from his own gardens or hothouse, even if the quality is nothing special as compared with that of the produce imported from abroad. A contributor to a monthly or quarterly periodical deems his own article, when it comes out, the best of that number. This holds good in every department of life. There is no end of interest in produce that we ourselves have raised. Cattle bred on our own stock farm are preferred to any other. We are more happy in a house that we ourselves have built.
This may involve a little too much self-complacency, which especially in the transition period of life not infrequently breeds conceit. It must also be granted that affection for our own handiwork may go too far if from sheer egotism it makes us indifferent to better work from other hands.
And yet, though too much self-complacency may play a part in this, this is not the principal trait that dominates the preference that is given to a product of one's own.
This is felt at once when you reckon with mother-joy which revels in play with her own child in a way that no woman can in play with the child of another.
Truly, self-delusion and selfishness play all too frequently anything but a subordinate part in this joy of the mother-heart over her own child; but history of all ages, and folk-lore of all lands bear witness, that an altogether different string from that of selfishness vibrates in this wealth of mother-love, and that the music peculiar to this other string is only understood when the sacred fact is brought to mind that it is she who bore the child.
In her own child the mother sees, and is conscious of, a part of her own life. The child does not stand by the side of the mother as number one alongside of number two, but in the child the mother-life is extended.
This selfsame trait asserts itself in every product of our own, whether it be our own thought, knowledge, exertion, will-power or perseverance; and whether it be our own article that we sent to the press, our own house that we built, our own picture that we painted, our own embroidery that we embroidered, our own flower that we raised, or our own hound or race-horse that we bred, there is always something in it of our own, a distinctive something that we imprint upon it, an individual stamp that we have put upon it, something that makes us feel about it as we can never feel about anything that we ourselves have not made.
And by this trait of our human heart God comforts the sinner. That trait is in us because it is in God. And of this trait God says that it operates in the Divine Father-heart for our good, because where there is a soul at stake, God can never forget that He Himself has made it.
"For I will not contend forever, neither wills I be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made" (Is. 57:16).
As little as a mother can allow her just anger with the child of her own bosom to work itself out to the end, just so little can God's displeasure with a soul exhaust itself, because He Himself has made it.
The Father-name of God expresses completely this self-same richly comforting thought. It implies not merely that a father loves, and that God loves too, but that God's love for you springs from the same fact from which springs the love of father or mother for their children, to wit: the fact that God has created and formed you, and has made the soul that is in you.
That you have been created after God's Image, declares that by virtue of your creation, God feels Himself related to you; that He finds something of Himself in you, and because you are His own product, His own creature, His own handiwork, you are, and remain, an object of His Divine interest.
Because God has made your soul, there is something in it of God Himself, a Divine stamp has been impressed upon you; there is something of God's power, thought, and creative genius in you, as in no other. You are one of the Lord's own works of art, precisely like which He created none other. Imagine for a moment that you had ceased to exist, then something would be wanting in the rich collection of the Lord. And from this originates a tie between God and your soul, whereby you are a star in His firmament, which the Father of spirits can not do without.
And therefore God seeks that which is lost. An artist who had a collection of his paintings on exhibition in a museum, and discovered one day that one of his pictures was gone, could not rest until it had been traced and restored to its place on the wall.
So does God miss every soul that falls away from Him, because it is a soul that He has made; and what Jesus described in such touching and beautiful terms in the parables of the lost penny, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son, was born in His heart from the one thought, that God can not let go of the work of His hands, and therefore can not unconcernedly leave the souls of sinners as the prey of perdition, because they are His handiwork, and because He Himself has made them.
And therein consists also the grievousness of sin.
If on entering the museum one morning the afore-mentioned artist saw that under cover of night some ruffian had wantonly cut all his paintings with a knife, his bitterness of soul would know no bounds, not merely because of the treasures of art that had been ruined, but because that which had been ruined was what he himself had made.
And this bitter grief is inflicted upon God, when a soul falls away from Him.
The soul that He has made, has inwardly been torn asunder by sin, and is bruised and wounded almost beyond recognition.
And more than this, as often as by yielding to sin we ruin our soul still further, it is at the same time, an injury done to Him because He Himself has made it.
To ruin your own soul, or the soul of your children, or that of others by your example or by wilful seduction, is to spoil the work that God has made, and to wound Him in the likeness of Himself, that He has wrought in it.
It is as though you took a child, and before the eyes of his mother struck him down, and maimed him for life. It is to defy the love of the Maker for His handiwork, willfully giving offense, and grieving the Maker in that about which His heart is most sensitive.
To him, therefore, whose heart is fixed, this saying of the Lord's: "the souls that I have made," has a twofold meaning.
First: the blessed consolation, that, provided you believe, the displeasure of the Lord with the soul that He has made shall not be without end. And secondly: the wholesome stimulus it gives not to restlessly poison the soul by sin, but to favor it, to spare it; not to sin against it, but to shield it from corrupting influences, because your soul is one that belongs to God, because He has made it.
The confession that God created man after His own Image does not fathom the depth of the thought. The plummet goes far deeper. The saving and uplifting power of this article of faith is only felt, when every morning you begin the new day with the fresh realization of the thought, that the soul that dwells within you is a work of Divine art, and that your soul is one that God has made, in which His honor is involved, over which His holy jealousy watches, and which you can not make an instrument of sin, without laying violent hands upon that towards which God sustains a personal relation, because He Himself has made it.
Forsooth, it does not say anything but that you should know that you are a child of God, but it says it in a more gripping way; it tells you that the child that in sin denies his Father, touches Him in His honor, and grieves His Father-heart.
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