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47

"THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY GHOST."

In our intercourse with the world and with society, intimacy is wonderfully deepened by the permission of calling a person by name. This intimacy becomes closer still, when the family name gives place to the baptismal name. Children do not know this transition. Rules of politeness only come in force when the shoes of childhood have been outgrown. These rules but intend to heighten the unconventionality of childlife, and to elevate it to nobler forms, which purposely create a certain distance between man and man, and allow individuals to develop themselves more freely. When in later years, however, closer acquaintance leads to friendship, or association in a common pursuit lessens the distance, and titles fall away, and for the first time we call one another by name, the method of intercourse modifies itself entirely. We feel ourselves at once drawn closer together, and it seems that mutual confidence but waits the chance to reveal itself.

As a rule, the higher the station of the person who allows us to call him by name, the greater the leap from the estrangement to the more confidential intercourse. It is great indeed when we call a man by his family name. It is greatest when we address him by his personal name. 247 Another difference is, that among women, even as with children, the personal, baptismal name is used, and almost never the family name, while among men as a rule the family name is in vogue, and the use of the personal name indicates a far higher degree of intimacy. While at length in family life every more dignified title falls away, and the use of the family-name has no meaning, but everything hinges on the baptismal name, or passes over into an entirely other sort of names, which express the relation which one sustains to the other. Until finally we come to the mother-and father-name, and we speak of husband and wife, and parents say: my child. These names of common use in the family are more than sounds. They express something essential in the mutual relationships. They are somewhat on a par with the names we give to a physician, clergyman, or sexton, which indicate that we do not mean their person but their office. But while with the latter these persons, and the relation in which they stand to us, separate themselves, the father-name, the mother-name and the name of "my child" contain this excellent trait, that they express simultaneously both the persons and the relationships, and that in this way they indicate the highest that a name can express. If then after these observations we address God as Our Father or as Abba, dear Father, we appreciate more fully than before, the supreme privilege which this Father-name confers upon a child of God.

The names by which we seek to indicate the Eternal, are not all equally intimate. The vague name of God brings no approach. The mere 248 word God indicates a highly-exalted Being, that far transcends mankind. But by itself it has no meaning. It is exclusive and reveals nothing. It does not indicate a single relationship. It only becomes significant and vital, when we put the word my before it, and speak of "my God," or of the "Covenant-God."

The same applies to the name: the most High. In Scripture we find it used in circles outside of Israel. It occurs in connection with Melchizedek, with Nebuchadnezzar, Isaiah 14:14; in the heathen world where Daniel dwelt, and with good and bad angels. In Ps. 82:6 angels are called: children of the most High. Gabriel speaks of the power of the Highest that shall overshadow Mary. Demons likewise call Jesus: Thou Son of God, most High (Luke 8:28). This is but natural. This name of the most High merely indicates that our God is exalted far above all created things. But it is not a name that brings him closer to us, or that initiates one into his secret fellowship.

It is altogether different when God reveals himself as the Almighty, as Jehovah and as Lord. The patriarchs were permitted to call Him the Mighty God. This indicates protection, a refuge in time of trouble, surety of the given promise, a party to the Covenant, who will break every form of opposition in our behalf. Hence the rich development of this name in the manifold references to God as our high tower, our Refuge, our Rock; as of a God in whose tent we may dwell, and who is our hiding-place. It is all the unfolding of this one idea: God is the Almighty One, who watches over us to bless us.

The same is true of the Jehovah name. This 249 also is no hollow sound, but an expression of the Being of God; even of that in him which we need for our comfort in the midst of these changing scenes of life. Everything about us comes and goes. We ourselves change continuously with every changing thing around us. Scarcely has spring given way to summer, before autumn is at hand to pass on into the winter-sleep of death. This antagonizes our inner being, which calls for immortality; which longs to remain like unto itself, and which at the bar of its own consciousness maintains in old age identity with the self of the child. But this change around us and within us ceaselessly goes on. There is nothing sure. It is all as the rocking of waves, on which we are rocked and irresistibly driven along. And in the midst of this restless ocean the wonderful name of Jehovah: I am that I am, is the revelation of the enduring, the abiding, the eternal, the unchangeable, and becomes one with the name of Rock. Thus the result of this name-revelation is, that he to whom Jehovah has shown grace, and who himself has laid hold on Jehovah, has in God the fixed point, from whence he defies the restless tossing of the waters on the sea of life, and lays hold on eternity itself in the God whom he worships. To know Jehovah is to have eternal life.

The same is the case with the name: Lord. He who only speaks of God says nothing of the relation in which he stands to Him. But he who says: Lord, our God, or God the Lord, bears witness to a relation which he sustains to the Eternal Being. He is His property and servant From him he expects orders and ordinances. He 250 acknowledges that he should live for God, because God is his Lord, so that he exists solely and alone for the sake of God. In this revelation of the Name, the love of God that sought us and drew us, has made still further progress. Israel was taught to know the Father-name, which is by no means revealed for the first time in the New Testament. When God said to Malachi: If then I am a Father, where is mine honor? this one saying clearly shows that the sense and significance of the Father-name was well-known in Israel. Even the antithesis with the child was understood in it. Or was it not said of David: I shall be to him a Father. And he shall be to me a son. Every one feels that in the Father-name the Eternal Being comes close to us. It is as though all distance falls away, and as though by this name God himself invites us to warm confidence, close fellowship and intimate communion. The mother-name would have done this still more tenderly, but not so significantly, because the mother-name is more closely associated with childhood and early youth, while the father-name embraces all of life. The Father-name of God moreover includes both the tenderness of the mother-name and the energetic confidentiality of the father-name. "Though a mother may forget her sucking child, yet will I not forget thee." (Is. 49:15) .

The inner religious life awakens in all its richness and fullness only at the sound of the Father name. For now there is family life, continuous dwelling with God, the outpouring of the heart, the holding of oneself fast by God in confidence and love, in the fellowship of prayer and in a 251 tenderness, which no longer hides anything. More yet, the Father-name includes the name of the child. With the Abba Father comes the surprising discovery that one is himself a child of God, and with it is disclosed the nobility of our race, the royal exaltation above everything that surrounds us in the unconscious creation, and the thought which tranforms all of life, that this is not our real life, for that our real life is with and by and in our God.

With this the last step is made possible. And at length comes the full revelation of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, of the one and threefold Being. This at once establishes the connection of the relation which we sustain to God with the Being of God itself. By itself the Father-name might yet stand outside of the Divine Being, and merely have been borrowed from, human family life. In this case it would merely imply, that as we are children of our father at home, God also watches as a Father over us. But all this becomes different at once. In his Being God is eternally Father, and in this same Being of God is the Son. Hence what is known on earth in the family is only the image of what eternally was in the Being of God. It is no longer a comparison. The real is expressed in the Father-name. Likewise when we are privileged to be called God's Child, this name is not borrowed from comparison with the family, but it comes to us directly from the image of God. He is not merely called our Father, but he is eternally our Father. We are not merely called his child. We are his child, generated by him and born from him.

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This is salvation. Wherefore he who takes the confession of the Trinity as a mere doctrinal question, does not fathom by far what this revelation of Father, Son and Holy Ghost implies. Only the Triune God is the wealth and the delight of the soul.

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