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§ II.—THE PATERNITY OF GOD.

The relation which God sustains to man is only less important, than his Being and the properties of his Nature. “How is God connected with me? How is he affected toward me?” are questions of infinite interest to a rational being. The answer of the Teacher of Nazareth to these questions is 136simple and explicit, and is conveyed in a single word, a word of profound significance and of surpassing tenderness—the word Father. To man this term belongs emphatically, and it is one of the wealthiest in human language, and men at least can have no difficulty in comprehending all its meaning. The relation which it indicates has no such interpretation, among other intelligent creatures, as it finds in this world. There is no fatherhood or childhood among angels, no derivation of being from one to the other. But men on earth are connected together in this extraordinary sense; and from the imperfect type existing among themselves, they at least are able to rise to the supreme reality in God. The human spirit is the offspring, the immediate and direct offspring, of the Everliving Spirit. It is capable of bearing and does bear, and it is the only thing that bears or is capable of bearing, a resemblance to God. When we have said that God created the heavens, the earth and all material things, we have exhausted all of which the subject admits. But it is not simply true, that he created minds also, He is the Father of minds and of nothing else.

The peculiar representation which is thus given of God’s relation to man is beautifully suggestive, among other things, of authority, the very highest form of which known in this world is the parental. The power of a sovereign, however extensive it be, 137is, after all, only conventional; it admits of being circumscribed or suspended; and there are many quarters of the world where no such thing is recognized or known. All earthly forms of authority, whether belonging to the political, civil, or social relations of men, are accidental and official, created by men themselves for their own purposes, and may be modified or entirely abolished by the power that created them. But the authority of a father over his child is founded in nature, and established by the Great God himself. This is not, like the others, a voluntary arrangement among men themselves, which they are at liberty to continue or to terminate as they please; but, on the contrary, it is a Divine constitution. Such authority as a father possesses over his child, so natural, so divine, so real, no human being besides can possess over another. This, accordingly, is the selected type of the supreme rights of God, and of that essential sovereignty which belongs to the Father of minds. No other explains, as this does, the foundation and the nature of Divine authority. There are, indeed, other terms which indicate the mere fact of sovereignty in God, and do so more pointedly and directedly than this. For example: He is compared to a king; a name which belongs to the highest secular office and the highest secular authority on earth. “The Lord is King forever and ever.” His creatures are his subjects; he has 138given them righteous and wise laws, and they must answer to him for obedience and disobedience. The comparison is obviously just up to a certain limit; but it is as obvious that, in many essential respects, it entirely fails. The king and his people are connected together only by one bond, that of authority and corresponding subjection. But the intimacy and tenderness of the association between God and his rational creatures are not expressed, or in any way suggested, by this phraseology. All that is conveyed by the word king—authority, rectitude, wisdom, power—is really Contained in the word father; but there is very much conveyed by the word father which is not capable of being expressed by the word king. God is a King, but he is a Father-King; his subjects are his own children, and his government of them, in its very origin, and consequently in its essential spirit, in all its laws, and in all its acts, is strictly and only parental. God’s Kinghood is a figure, his Fatherhood is the profoundest reality. He may justly, and in certain respects, be compared to a king; but he is a Father.

The relation in which God stands to them sheds amazing glory on intelligent beings of all orders. All souls wherever they are in the wide universe, are brothers; all have one Father, even God. The immense brotherhood, the vast family, it is hardly possible to embrace by any effort of imagination, 139And some of its aspects are so appalling that we are even deterred from making the attempt.

The first-born of God, the elder sons of creation, unfallen angels, are associated in the invisible state with multitudes of disembodied, perfected human spirits. Another division of the great family is found on this earth, and it includes a vast majority of the earth’s inhabitants. They are children, but they have wandered from their Father, have ceased to think of him, almost to know him, and with them God is patiently striving by his spirit in their minds and by his outward providence. A third division includes the reclaimed children of God in this world; those who have been arrested in their wanderings, have heard the voice of their Father, and have been subdued and won back to him. Between such reclaimed souls on earth and their God there must exist a singular tenderness of affection. They are his sons twice born, by generation and regeneration, his offspring at first, but also created anew and restored to him by trust and love. Of every one of them the Great Father proclaims, “This my son was lost and is found, was dead, and is alive again.”

But a terrible darkness overshadows the remaining portion of the family of God, unreclaimed minds, human and angelic, in the invisible world. The entrance of sin and death among rational creatures is a tremendous and unfathomable mystery. 140On earth, in the history of many a home, it is seen; that some of the circle abide in affection and in duty, while others prove undutiful and lawless; and the counterpart of this, it is found, exists in a higher region. The family of God has been the scene of dark revolt. The one mystery of the universe, into which all else that troubles and confounds the reflecting may be resolved, is no other than this—“The created will separating from the untreated, struggling against it, and ruining itself by the mad effort.” Multitudes of rebellious wills have thus doomed themselves to irretrievable perdition. But all the while, whatever God has done, he has done to avert, not to produce, spiritual ruin. How or why it has happened that the children have rebelled against their Father, and perished in their rebellion, is a secret which we can not unvail. But the act was their own, wholly and only their own, and as wholly and only in defiance and despite of Him who deserved nothing but obedience and love. Verily this is dark, impenetrably dark; but the reality of the fatherhood of God is luminous notwithstanding. It is a first principle, as stable and as sure as God’s being; and all that it involves of tenderness and love is as indubitable as ever. The simple truth of our parentage abides, amid whatever mystery, God is our Father, the Father of minds.

This great fact was announced marvelously often 141in the teaching of Jesus. Sometimes, when referring to God, he makes use of the more personal and intimate designation, my Father. “My Father’s kingdom.”4848   Matt xxvi. 29. “My Father hath appointed me.”4949   Luke, xxii. 29. “My Father worketh hitherto.”5050   John, v. 17. “It is my Father that honoreth me.”5151   John, viii. 14. But much oftener, generally indeed, he adopts the more comprehensive word, and speaks of God as the Father. “The Father hath life in himself.”5252   John, v. 26. “Neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, ye shall worship the Father.”5353   John, iv. 21. “He that hath learned of the Father.”5454   John, vi. 46. “Not that any man hath seen the Father.”5555   John, vi. 46. “I will pray the Father.”5656   John, xiv. 16. “Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father.”5757   John, xv. 16. “I came forth from the Father and go to the Father.”5858   John, xvi. 28. “The promise of the Father.”5959   Acts, i. 4. “The times and the seasons the Father hath put in his own hand.”6060   Acts, 1. 7. “I shall show you plainly of the Father.”6161   John, xvi. 25. Addressing not any select class, but all those indiscriminately who listened to his teaching, he represented God as the Father. This is the more significant, when it is recollected that the very work of Jesus on earth, at least an essential part of his work, was to make known God. The root of human sin was false views of God, misconception as to his character, imagining that what he 142had declared might nevertheless not be true. This constituted the first sin ever perpetrated in our world, and was the sole cause of death, the death of the soul. On the other hand, it is declared that this is life, eternal life, “to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”6262   John, xvii. 3. Ignorance was death; hence the life opposed to this death is knowledge, the knowledge of God; and to convey this knowledge was one of the highest purposes of Christ’s mission. In all the labors of his life, in his teaching and in his cross, one grand de-. sign was to reveal to men what God really was, that they might be constrained to return to him. The question, therefore, is inexpressibly momentous, what does Jesus say concerning God, how does he represent the relation in which he stands to intelligent beings? Only one reply can be given to this question, Jesus reveals God as the Father of souls. And if there be significance in the word, if there be truth in the relation, this is of all things most sure, God loves infinitely his own offspring. He is a true Father, he is a perfect Father, without any of the blemishes or faults, and with all the excellences that are possible to the relation. Take from the word father all of error, weakness, caprice, with which it may ever be associated; heighten to infinity all in it that is tender, endearing, excellent—that is God. He is wise, he is 143righteous, he is mighty, his holy purpose shall stand, he must and will do all that is necessary for the good of the entire universe. But, besides power, besides wisdom, besides rectitude, besides immutability, there is an infinite tenderness in his nature. The heart of God is the heart of a father for all his rational offspring. Paternal love is the element in which God lives and reigns. Paternal love is the moving force in the spiritual universe, unbounded, unchanging, everlasting love; infinite desire to produce happiness, to fill creation with the largest possible amount of enduring joy.

Jesus of Nazareth reveals for the worship and love of man, a Spirit; One Spirit, the dwelling-place and Fountain of infinite moral excellence; a Being standing in the nearest possible relation to intelligent creatures—the Father of souls!

The world was ignorant of its high descent, of its Divine parentage. The mind of man, God’s own child, had all but lost the sense of its origin. Jesus came near to tell men that they had still a Father, and that their Father pitied and loved them. He came to wake up in the bosom of God’s fallen sons a cry after their Father, and to bring back the guilty wanderers to their home!

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