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THE UNIVERSAL HEART OF GOD.
"For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called."-ISA. liv. 5.
You will take notice that in this passage the sense of the divine presence is brought near to men by those symbols which have in themselves the most precious associations, and which touch human experience in its tenderest points. It is a very striking thing for one to call himself father; but you will observe that here the relationships are carried out.
"Thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel."
Now, what two elements could have produced a magnificent consciousness of the glory of an overruling God so strongly as this appeal to the tenderest love of the human soul-family love, and to patriotism, or the love of country?
It is as if God had said, “I am to you as the husband is to the wife and to the household; I am to you the Holy One of Israel-your fathers' God, and your nation's God."
Thus having brought to their consciousness all these extremely powerful suggestions and tender relationships—and it is on this ground of the particularity of nationality that it has significance-he adds: "The God of the whole earth shall he be called." Not of any single household or select circle of households, was he the God; not of any single elect nation. Although he may show himself to any single nation as more precious, and clearer than to another, yet, the God
SUNDAY MORNING, June 28, 1974. LESSON: Isa. liv. HYMNS (Plymouth Col. lection): Nos. 552, 655, 660.
of the whole earth is he. He is to all, or may be, what he is to any. He is to every nation what he is to yours.
The Hebrew idea of God stands in marked contrast to that of other nations. For although national gods were abundant; although we have it in incontestible history, that very largely the divine idea grew among men, branching out of this sense of the family and of national life; yet, in regard to the Hebrews, they seemed to hold, by their best men and their clearest thinkers, that though Almighty God had made a disclosure of himself to the Jewish people transcendently clearer than to anybody else, he was not on that account theirs only. He was all the world's.
A candle does not belong to the candlestick that holds it, but to every one in the room where it shines; and the knowledge of God, the preciousness of the divine revelation, does not belong to the nation in which it is first and most clearly disclosed. They hold it as a torch; but it is that all may have the benefit of its shining.
The Hebrew idea stands still more in contrast with the polytheistic notion of God; for the Jews held that there was but one God, the Father of all, the Lord of all; whereas almost all other nations contiguous to them, and everywhere, although they held to unity, yet held to a unity that was subdivided, and by which heroes and historic personages rose to the stature of gods. The government of creation was thus distributed into an aristocracy of gods; than which nothing could be more repugnant to the revelation of God as it was made to the Jewish people.
It is also very clearly to be distinguished from pantheism of every kind-or the teaching that nature is itself, in its sum total, God. By that term we mean the sum of all thinkers and of all thinking-the sum of all vitality and of all phenomena: not a personality, but a complete system of the universe.
The latest mystic and veiled form of this is that which Mr. Matthew Arnold has set forth in an attempt, wonderful in ingenuity, and still more wonderful in other respects, to show that the Hebrews did not believe in a personal God, but that they believed in "a stream of tendencies which
make for righteousness"-that they believed in this great quality of righteousness, and a tendency of the universe to produce it; that they believed in an abstract force or influence and not in a personal God. I say that this is one of the most wonderful pieces of ingenuity, as a literary marvel, that has been known in our life-time. That a man should undertake to show that the Hebrews, who have personified God in every conceivable way, who have clothed him with every name that belongs to personality, who have represented him in every possible personal form, and whose whole literature stands distinct from every other on the peculiar ground of God's intense personality and companionableness, now and hereafter that a man should undertake to show that they did not believe in a personal God, is one of the most stupendous and astounding literary marvels, not only of this age but of any age.
We are told in the Scriptures that God is a Spirit; that he may be made known relatively, partially; and that the knowledge which is received of him must follow the development of men themselves. Nowhere else is there so much modesty as in the revelation of God in the Scriptures. In no other treatise, in no other book, is there such a sense of the fact that God is greater and better than anything that man can conceive, and infinitely different from man's conception. We are pointed in the directions in which his greatness appears. We are told that by and by, in a later stage, and in a higher development, we are to have the full knowledge of God-if ever a knowledge of the infinite can be taken in by the finite.
Except by analogies and glimpses of the spirit, he is incommunicable; and the revelation of him must follow, as it has followed, the development of man. There may be a disclosure in words, which seeks to compass the whole ideal of God. There was that, given to Moses; and the more you read and reflect, the more you will be filled with admiration for that disclosure of God which is recorded in the thirtyfourth chapter of Exodus. The reason for it is very sublime. This great nation had been taken out of captivity, where they had been infected, more or less, either by idolatry or
stupidity and animalism, and they were being led forth. It was to know how to lay the foundations of a nation that the statesman, Moses, asked God to reveal himself to him. If there be anything that a statesman may ask, it is this: "In the discharge of my duties to my kind, grant me something of the knowledge of that God whose function it is to discharge universal duties to universal beings." So Moses asked God to show him Himself, and I think that if statesmen in our day, reading the Constitution none the less, were wont to say to God all the more, "Make manifest to us what is entire truth, entire honor, entire fidelity, and entire beneficence," we should have a much higher state of government than we now have.
A national existence was starting, and the people had been gathered together at the foot of Mount Sinai, receiving the commands of God; and then, in the midst of the most extraordinary concomitants, addressed to the senses through the dramatism of nature in her wildest moods, God, in answer to the request of Moses, "Show me thy glory," said, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and fourth generation."
There has never yet been put one single word by human thought or pen to the magnificence and the completeness of this delineation of the divine character of him who overrules the world by such natural laws as that conduct entails consequences, and consequences carry with them penalties, and penalties go on from generation to generation. Modern science is just beginning to unfold those facts that were disclosed to Moses in the earlier centuries of Hebrew national life.
Now, in the administration of government, under such a constitution of natural laws, God makes himself known as paternal, as full of mercy, full of kindness, full of graciousness, full of forgiveness-a forgiveness which goes through all the range of transgression and sin.
And yet, though there is this declaration of God in words, we are to bear in mind that any real knowledge of God must always be dynamic, the result of the power of experience. Our knowledge of God must be merely speculative and intellectual, until we have filled up the conceptions handed down to us, and which we have been drilled under, by consecutive and long administration.
My father brought me up and took care of me till I was of ripe age; and my thought of my father is clear and distinct because of the continued perceptible action of his mind and government upon me through all the periods of my life. My mother died when I was only three years of age-an unforgotten name; an influence without personality; a vision, a form, an inspiration, but not a person. My father is to me clear as crystal, because his personality wrought upon me. My mother is to me an ideal beauty, because she did not live to exert a direct personal influence upon me, but left a thought and a memory into which has been gathered every ingenuity of fancy. Every conception of beauty, everything which makes womanhood resplendent-that I have attributed to my unknown mother. To my mind she is a nebulous glory, while he is a distinct, clear-marked personality.
The character of God, as a poet or a mere philosopher would reveal it, remains in the minds of men simply as a speculative brightness. The God who has governed the world by laws that have been found out by joy and sorrow and mistake and obedience-that God is the known God; and so it has come to pass that that revelation which has been made in names and words, largely and radiantly, has not had half so much influence as that side of the divine nature which has been called into existence by the revelation and disclosure of God's administrative processes in this world.
Now, any administration of a moral government by laws must respect the character and condition of the subject; and if men were born into life, high, complete, in full garniture, then we might consider government capable of disclosing itself to them in all its amplitude; but if, in point of historic fact, men have come into this world at the lowest stage,