THE FATHERHOOD OF
THE ORIGINAL RELIGION OF MAN TO GOD.
The invisible things of him from the creation of the
world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his
eternal power and Godhead. - Romans I. 20. When the Gentiles, which have
not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not
the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in
their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts
meanwlnle accusing or else excusing one another. - ii. 14, 15.
TIlE subject which I have chosen, with concurrence of the council of this Lectureship, is the Fatherhood of God. It is a subject which might be handled in a great variety of ways, according to the different points of view, and the different aims, of those handling it. My object is chiefly a practical one. It is to bring out the import and bearing of the Scriptural doctrine respecting the Fatherhood of God, as an influential element in Christian experience.
To reach that object, however, it may be necessary to begin with what may seem to be a somewhat abstract and speculative inquiry - an inquiry, I mean, into the relations which God sustains towards his intelligent creatures generally, and the place which the paternal relation holds among them. This inquiry, accordingly, will occupy the first lecture.
The second will be devoted to a consideration of the fatherhood of God, as manifested in the person of the Son especially with reference to his sonship in his incarnate state, and its bearing on the sonship of his people.
In the third, I shall inquire how and how far the fatherhood of God was matter of human knowledge and divine revelation before the incarnation of our Lord.
The fourth will contain an examination of the teaching of our Lord and his apostles on the subject; with special reference to the question how Christ"s sonship and his people"s are mutually related to one another, and connected with one another.
In the fifth, I shall advert to the manner in which the relation is constituted, so far as men are concerned; and in the sixth, I shall endeavour to point out some of its characteristic privileges and obligations.
Such is a general outline of the plan upon which these lectures are prepared; subject, of course, to modifications that may be rendered necessary, as I proceed from day to day with the work of extending and putting in shape the rough materials which I have somewhat carefully brought together.
In the discharge of this duty I crave the indulgence of my audience. And more than that, I ask their sympathy and their prayers. The theme is a very great one, and it demands very delicate treatment. My way of treating it may be in some respects unusual; on which account I hope my hearers may be willing sometimes to suspend their judgment until they have my views fully before them. I do not, however, mean to teach new doctrine. I seek to know the mind of Christ.
THE inquiry concerning the fatherhood of God, its nature and foundation, and what sense, to what effect, and on what ground, God is to be regarded as the Father of all or any of his intelligent creatures, - is one that ought to be conducted on the principle of a pure and simple appeal to Scripture; at least it is on that principle that I profess to conduct it. Does revelation ascribe to the Divine Being a relation of paternity as sustained by him towards angels and men? And if so, of what sort is it, how constituted and how realised? That is my idea of the question at issue.
At the same time it may be proper, as preliminary to the scriptural investigation of the subject, to look at it for a little in the light of natural religion; to see how far, among the elements, whether intuitional or experimental, out of which the system of rational Theism must be constructed, there is any valid or sufficient warrant for conceiving of God as a Father.
This is all the more necessary because it has somehow come to be taken for granted, in many quarters, that the primary and original relation of God to man is the paternal; and that consequently, any other relations which may belong to him, and in fact all his ordinances and actings in all his dealings with the human race as a whole, and with its members individually, must be viewed as springing out of that first and fundamental relation, and moulded and regulated by it. Nor does this mean merely that God must be held to cherish towards persons capable of being the objects of them feelings and affections similar, in many respects, to some of those which find a place in an earthly father"s bosom. It is evident that something more is intended; something of the nature of a real and definite relation. For it is made the basis of arguments a priori for or against several of those aspects of the Divine procedure with reference to mankind about which controversies are still agitated. It is pleaded that God must be held to act in this or that particular way towards men, because he is their Father; or otherwise, that he cannot be imagined to adopt such or such a course, inasmuch as it would be inconsistent with his fatherhood.
I do not here speak of this mode of reasoning as unwarrantable and unsafe. I do not raise or argue that point at this stage. I allude to the fact which I have stated, simply as proving that the paternal relation into which some would resolve all the Divine dispepsations is in their eyes a great, or rather the only great, reality; and as rendering it therefore a matter of not a little consequence to attempt to ascertain what root it has, if any, in the original conceptions which nature teaches us to form of her glorious Author.
In making this attempt, I am not called upon, at least in the first instance, to define exaotly,or to describe particularly, the relation now in question. It is rather incumbent on those who assert it as a natural and original relation, and who insist upon it as their all in all, to do so. For the most part, however, they decline the task. They are more inclined to deal in somewhat vague generalities ; losing sight, as it seems to me, of an important distinction which, in view of the ambiguity of language, ought to be carefully observed.
We speak familiarly of the relation in which two persons stand to one another, when we mean nothing more than the state of feeling, or the manner of intercourse, that subsists between them. They are related to one another, in amity or in enmity, as friends or as enemies. The relation between them is one of mutual confidence, or of mutual distrust and disaffection. It is that of a benefactor to him whom he benefits, or of a wrongdoer to him whom he injures. Relation, in that sense, or relative position, is not fixed, but variable. And as such, or as being so, it may modify more fixed and permanent relationships, even to the extent of reversing their legitimate mode of action. The actual, de facto, consciously-realised relation subsisting at any given time, - say between sovereign and subject, or between brother and sister, or between husband and wife, or between father and son, - may be very different from what the permanent mutual tie binding them, whether by birth or by covenant, to one another must be held, do jure, to imply. The difference may be either in defect or in excess ; in shortcoming or in superfluity. The tenderest bond, - the conjugal, the fraternal, the parental, the filial, - may thus be practically made void by unloving spouses, brethren, fathers, sons. And on the other hand, a connection not in itself necessarily involving any of the affections and obligations of these unions may have their warm and loving spirit infused into it, by the warm and loving hearts of the connected parties themselves. Thus those who till yesterday have been utter strangers to one another may unite today in an embrace closer than either ever gave to his nearest of kin; just as nearest of kin may draw off from one another more than any two mere strangers would ever think of doing.
I do not now enlarge upon this distinction. Its importance, especially when God and man are the parties concerned, may appear more clearly as my argument advances. Meanwhile it is enough for my purpose, in the outset, to have indicated the distinction thus briefly, and, as it were, in the form of a caveat against a possible misapprehension of the introductory observations which I have to offer in this opening lecture; the object of which is chiefly to clear and define the state of the question , when viewed in the light of natural religion and its teachings.
Let it be understood then that it is the relation, or relations, in which God stands to the other intelligences in the universe, that constitutes the subject of my present inquiry. It is an inquiry which has respect to relationship, and to that only.
I say relation, or relations. For one point of inquiry, - and that a primary and principal one, - must be this : - Are the relations in which God stands to the other intelligences in the universe, manifold, and essentially distinct? Or may they all be ultimately simplified and reduced into one?
That there is, and must be, a certain thread of unity running through them all, and harmonising them all, is probable, a priori. It is probable, as a mere deduction or inference from the unity of God; the oneness of the Divine nature. And accordingly, it may be anticipated that in the end or in the long run, - as the result or issue of the actual dealings of God with the other intelligences in the universe, - a unity of the strictest sort may come to prevail and be established, in the final adjustment, whatever that may be, of the terms on which he and they are to stand related towards one another for ever. It may not be the same unity for all. There may not be the same adjustment in respect for all. Undoubtedly two opposite poles are indicated, not by Scripture only, but by reason and conscience as well ; both of them simple enough; the one simply penal and accursed; the other simply free and blessed : to one or other of which the conflicting elements in the troubled chaos of created will appear to be all tending. But that simplicity, whether as "a savour of life into life;" or as "a savour of death into death," is not yet. As things now are, a somewhat more mixed and cornplex system of relationship would seem to be, if I may so speak the order of the day.
Certainly, common language suggests the idea of a variety of relations being sustained by the Supreme towards subordinate intelligences ; such as those of Creator, Preserver, Benefactor; Lawgiver, Ruler, Judge; Frlend, Father. Thus, one would say, the common sense of mankind recognises complexity rather than simplicity; the manifold rather than the one.
The enumeration which I have made of these relations may be too manifold; too various and complex. Let that be at once admitted. Still, let my enumeration be sifted and simplified over so carefully, it gives at all events a threefold notion of what I may be allowed to call the normal Divine relationship; meaning by that term, exhaustively, the entire relative position which God occupies, or may occupy, with reference to his intelligent creatures, considered simply as such.
First, there is the relation springing out of the bare fact of creation; a relation implying certainly preservation and benefaction. The Creator, in virtue of his being their creator, preserves and benefits his intelligent, as well as his other creatures.
Secondly, there is the relation necessarily constituted by the fact of the creation being a creation of intelligent and responsible beings; a relation implying moral rule and government; authoritative law and retributive judgment.
Thirdly, there is the relation of which intelligent and responsible beings may fitly, though not necessarily, be the objects; - the relation of friendship, rising, it may be, into fatherhood.
The popular mind, as it expresses itself in all languages, recognises this threefold conception of God. The distinctions which it involves, between the first view rising into the second and the second culminating in the third, are of such a nature, and the sense of them is so deeply rooted in the very constitution of all created intelligence, that science the most scientific, - system the most systematising, - cannot be allowed to overlook or disregard them; or so to aim at their obliteration as absolutely to confound creation with government, or creation and government with friendship or fatherhood.
But another question here arises. May not these relations involve one another, or run up into one another? May it not be the case, first, that creation implies government and, secondly, that creation and government necessarily imply friendship and fatherhood ? - necessarily, I mean, in essential principle, ab origine, as well as ultimately and practically, in actual result or issue?
To a large extent, or rather indeed unreservedly, the former of these two questions must be answered in the affirmative. Whatever God creates, he must not only preserve and benefit, but also govern.
Let it be observed, however, that this necessity does not arise out of any right which creation may be supposed to give to the creature ; - any claim which the creature, as such, may be imagined to have upon the Creator. Nor is it founded upon any such right or claim. It arises solely out of the absolute sovereignty of God, the Creator, and is founded entirely on that inherent and inalienable prerogative of Deity. Whatever God as Creator makes he must rule. If it is not to rule him, he must rule it. And he must rule it, in all its actings and workings ; through all the stages of its development. And the rule must always be, in a sense, by law and judgment. In a sense, I say, more or less proper. For the nature of the law and judgment by means of which God rules must correspond to the nature and constitution of the thing or being to be ruled.
If it is inert matter that is to be ruled, the law will be of a material or physical kind, whether mechanical or chemical. And the judgment, if it may be so called, by which the law is enforced, will be the material or physical disorganisation which any interference with its uniform and orderly working, or any disregard of its uniform and orderly working, inevitably tends to cause. Such interference or disregard, it is obvious, cannot come from inert matter if but only from a living voluntary agent handling and using it. Upon the living voluntary agent, therefore, the judgment, or quasi-judgment, falls. Inert matter itself never is and never can be disobedient to the law by which it is ruled; and consequently never can incur the penalty of disobedience.
But now, let what is to be ruled be, not inert matter, but beings possessed of animal life, having the capacity of feeling and the power of voluntary motion ; - with the sensational propensities which we class as instinctive, and those dawnings of intelligence which, rendering them teachable, look so marvelously like reason, as they are unfolded, in growing shrewdness, from the lowest to the highest order of the brutal tribes. The sort of law by which such beings are ruled, - the law of instinct, and it may be added, in a measure, of experience, - is adapted to their sentient and motive nature. It operates upon them blindly; that is, without any consciousness of it on their part, or any faculty of either assenting to it, or dissenting from it. Nor are they more conscious of the judgment enforcing the law, as judgment, than they are of the law as law. They receive good through compliance with the law, whether the compliance be their own act or another's act upon them, with equal unconcern. And so also, with equal unconcern, they receive evil through the violation of the law, when either their own act, or another's act towards them, is such as to make it work to their hurt. There is an entire absence, equally in either case, of anything like the feeling of moral obligation fulfilled or outraged; of moral guilt and culpability avoided or incurred.
That feeling is the exclusive property of intelligence, when it rises to the possession of consciousness and of conscience; consciousness of the personal self; conscience toward the personal God. And it is that feeling which identifies and attests the peculiar character of the law and judgment by means of which the Creator rules his really Intelligent and accountable creatures. His rule now becomes government, properly so called; government worthy of himself; in full harmony with his own personal nature, and with his ultimate purpose in creation, to have persons under his sway, with whom he, as a person, may personally deal. It becomes a rational and moral government, by means of a law and a judgment of which reason and the moral sense take cognisance; a law, which the soul or spirit, consciously free, voluntarily accepts or disowns; a judgment, which the soul or spirit, consciously responsible, cannot but confess to be either the appropriate reward of innocence or merit, or the deserved recompense of crime.
Thus it would seem that, from the very nature of the case, creation implies rule and government. The Creator must, of very necessity, be a ruler and governor; unless his own creation is to be independent of himself. And as regards his intelligent creatures, his rule or government must be, in the proper forensic sense, legal and judicial, if it is to be adapted to the constitution and relative position of the persons who are to be governed. Only thus can he rule them as really persons.
For the same reason also, it is a matter of necessity, as regards himself that the Creator's rule or government shall be absolute and sovereign. This is a capital point in the argument from creation to government which must be clearly apprehended and steadily kept in view. If it is as Creator that he rules and governs, - if it is as his own creatures that he rules and governs all things, all animals, all persons in the universe, - by whatever sort of law, by whatever sort of judgment, accommodated to their several natures, - it is not possible to conceive otherwise of his dominion than that it is of the most thoroughly royal, imperial, autocratic kind. For it is the dominion of him to whom all creation belongs. It is the dominion of him who must, if he is to be God, be supreme over all. It is the dominion of him to this worship belongs: "Thou, Lord, hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and they were created" (Rev. iv. 11).
Now, if this is at all a right view of the original relation of God to his created intelligences, - the relation necessarily constituted by creation, and necessarily implied in creation, - where is the idea of fatherhood? Is there, at this stage, and so far as the inquiry has been hitherto pushed, any room for it at all? Is it not rather excluded? Has that great thought any place among those original, fundamental, primary, and elemental conceptions of the connection between the Creator and his intelligent creatures, which must lie at the very root and foundation of all religion, and must enter into its heart's core ; - at least if it is to be theistic and monotheistic ? Set pantheism and polytheism apart. Let the proper personality of the one only living and true God be assumed. Let it be taken for granted that the Creator is a living, personal intelligence, distinct from his own creation; and in particular, distinct from his own intelligent creatures, who are themselves, as he is, living, personal intelligences. It may be clearly shown and certainly inferred that he must, as Creator, govern them ; and govern them in a manner suited to their organisation or constitution, as that of beings made capable of owning righteous authority and reasonable law, and therefore capable of receiving recompense or retribution. Standing to them in the relation of their creator, he must of necessity stand to them in the relation, as thus explained, of their ruler; their sovereign law- giver and just judge. These apprehensions of God, and of his relation to the rational and responsible inhabitants of his universe, are of the essence of all belief in him, and all worship of him. They originate, and what is more, they fully explain and vindicate, both belief and worship. But the paternal relation, the fatherhood of God, has no place among them.
Let the precise question here at issue be carefully cleared and ascertained. It is not a question about the existence of a certain attribute in God, such as goodness, kindness, pity, sympathy. Nor is it a question about the sentiments and feelings which God may be supposed to entertain towards the beings whom he has made, and which he may express or embody in his actual dealings with them. The question is much more precise and definite. It is about the existence of a certain positively real and actual relation of fatherhood and sonship, between the Creator and his intelligent creatures; such a relation as, like all real and actual relations, implies this at least, that in virtue of it, certain specific reciprocal obligations, of a peculiar nature, are incumbent on the parties embraced in it, - having certain specific reciprocal rights, privileges, and endearments associated with them. It is not a divine feeling that may be called fatherly, - as it might be equally well named from some other kindly human analogy, - that we are in search of; but a real and actual divine fatherhood. We want not merely one who, in his other relations, acts as far as possible a fatherly part towards us; but one who is in fact our father.
If any choose to say that fatherhood is simply origination, - that the essence of it lies in being the cause or occasion of a new living person beginning to exist in the universe, - that paternity consists in bringing a new living person, whether instrumentally or otherwise, on the stage of the universe, and in that alone; that it is that, and nothing more ; - then of course creation and paternity are identical. God, simply as creator, is the father of all his creatures. But, not to speak of the obvious difficulty that this establishes somewhat too wide a fatherhood, since it makes it comprehensive, not only of all the higher intelligences, however ultimately sunk and lost ; - for fatherhood by creation can scarcely be conceived of otherwise than as natural, necessary, and inalienable ; - but also of others besides, who may be still less welcome associates ; - who does not see that it really evacuates the idea of fatherhood altogether of any precise or definite meaning; making the name little more than a euphonious synonym, or figurative personification, for causation; and in truth denying that there is ary real paternal relation on the part of God at all!
Nor will it avail to hold, by way of limitation and definition, that it is his creating them "in his own image, after his own likeness," that constitutes the Creator to be also the father of the higher intelligences ; - as if his fatherhood consisted in his being the originating cause of new beings like himself coming into existence. For this only brings us back to the former inquiry, What is it, as regards the relation between God and them, that their being thus created "in his image and after his likeness" necessarily involves? It can scarcely be proved to involve any more than this; that they are capable of understanding his will, feeling their free responsibility under it, and receiving reward or punishment in terms of it. His government of them therefore must be of a reasonable and moral character; by means of a reasonable, moral law, having annexed to it suitable and corresponding judicial awards. If the relation of fatherhood arises out of the fact of creation, it may be admitted that, in the case of intelligent creatures, it involves that. But it cannot be shown to involve more than that. And really, if that is all, the fatherhood of God, I repeat, is but a name. It is little, if anything, more than a mere figure of speech. For it cannot, in my judgment, be too strongly asserted, that among the primary and original elements of our relational conception of God, there is absolutely no trace of anything peculiar in the constitution and condition of his rational, as distinct from his other creatures, beyond the bare fact of intelligent responsibility.
Nay, not only so. There is absolutely no room, no place, for anything more. The intrusive introduction of anything more deranges and disturbs the whole great economy of creation. The notion of the Creator's government of the very highest of his intelligent creatures being anything else, in its principle and ideal, than simply and strictly legal and judicial, is, as it respects the radical and essential relation of Creator and creature, an inconsistency ; an intolerable anomaly ; a suicidal self-contradiction. Were it admitted it must break down, - so far as it is admitted, it does tend to break down, the vast, infinite distance that should ever be felt to subsist between the Creator and the creature. It is fatal to the real recognition of absolute sovereignty on the one hand, and absolute dependence and subjection on the other. It introduces necessarily the idea of some sort of intermediate relative position, modifying and qualifying the Creator's sovereignty and the creature's subjection ; as if the Creator owed something to the creature beyond strict legal justice ; and as if the creature had some right or claim, irrespective of mere legal justice, which he might assert, if not against, yet at least upon, the Creator. A paternal government, in any fair and full sense of the term, imagined to spring out of the mere fact of creation, or to he implied in it, must be fatal to the prerogative of God the Creator ; and therefore also fatal to the true happiness, because fatal to the right position, of his intelligent creatures. It could only be realised by their being as gods themselves.
Let it be settled, then, as a great fundamental truth, that on whatever other ground the relation of fatherhood in God may rest, and in whatever other sphere of divine operation or creature experience it may unfold itself - it cannot have its rise in creation, and cannot have its place in that rule or government which is consequent upon creation. Let there be no confounding of things separate and distinct. Government by law and judgment is one thing; fatherhood is something altogether different. It is only by keeping them quite apart in our conceptions of them that we can do justice to both. It is only thus that we can conserve the sovereignty inalienable from the one, and give full and free scope for all the affection which is the peculiar glory of the other. And it is only thus that we prepare the way for the harmonious adjustment of the two, in the complete development of .the gospel plan, - for their being so married that "what God hath joined, man may not put asunder."
But, while it is maintained that the only proper and original idea of the relation in which the Creator stands to his intelligent creatures, - the only idea necessarily involved in his having made them, and made them such as they are, - is that of rule or government by law and judgment, - it by no means follows that there may not have been from the first indications pointing to the higher relation of fatherhood, and a foundation, as it were, laid, for its subsequent adjustment and development. On the contrary, the fact revealed in Holy Scripture of the agency of the Eternal Son in the creative work, coupled with what is not obscurely intimated as having been the design of that arrangement, - the glorifying of the Son through the unfolding of his filial oneness with the Father, - would seem to make it not unreasonable to expect that in the original constitution, mental and spiritual, of the higher intelligences there should be found some aptness, at least, for realising the great divine ideal, and taking on the impress or image of it; or in other words, that they should be found so constituted from the first as to be capable of apprehending the paternal aspect of the divine character and administration, when made known to them, - and capable also of entering themselves, in due time and on due warrant, into that state or standing with reference to God, for which the apprehension of his fatherhood may open up the way. These are subjects of inquiry which must come up afterwards. For the present, it is enough to observe that in whatever manner and in whatever measure the notion of God being a Father, - and more particularly, the notion of their being personally interested in his being a Father, - may be supposed to have dawned on the minds of the intelligences, this must have always appeared to them and been felt by them to be something quite distinct from their primary, normal relation to him as their moral ruler; something superadded to that relation, or superinduced upon it, and not to be either identified or confounded with it. His being a Father to them, if they rightly reflected on their true position, must have been regarded as a pure and simple act of grace; not an essential element of their creature state or condition ; not discoverable by them as creatures throngh any inference or deduction from the fact of their being creatures ; to be known therefore only by direct communication from God Himself, who alone is competent, in the exercise of his mere and sovereign good pleasure, to determine, and consequently to unfold, the nature and the terms of the relation which it indicates. These conclusions, as it seems to me, are applicable to the intelligent creatures of God, as such; and to all of them; not merely to the guilty and fallen, but to the innocent and unfallen also. There may indeed be a loose and vague sense in which, for popular or poetic uses, the holy angels may be said to be the Sons of God by their creation or from their creation; and man may be spoken of as having been a child of God in Paradise before he lost by his trangression his original standing there. Even if it could be established as a theological truth or a historical fact, that God was pleased to regard and treat these innocent subjects of his His as sons from the very beginning of their existence, still it must be maintained that his doing so was simply an exercise of his own free discretion that it was no necessary inference from, no necessary consequence of, his having created them such as he did create them; that it was a distinct and independent benefit, posterior to creation, in the order of nature, though, on the supposition now made, simultaneous in point of time. I am persuaded, however, that there is really no valid proof or sufficient presumption, either in natural religion or in the word of God, in favour of that idea. I do not think that there is in either any trace of sonship constituted at creation ex gratid, any more than there is of sonship constituted by creation ex necessit ate. This also may be matter of future investigation.
There is one deduction from the views advocated in this lecture to which before I leave the subject I must ask particular attention; for it seems to me to be all-important. If I am right in holding that any relation of fatherhood into which God may be pleased to enter towards his intelligent creatures must be, in the sense now explained, posterior to the original relation which he sustains, as being their Ruler, in virtue of being their Maker, - then it clearly follows that the former relation, the paternal, cannot be allowed to supersede, or even to modify the latter, the governmental. That prior relation is a necessity of nature, if one may so speak, and not a discretionary arrangement. The mere existence of intelligent creatures involves their subjection to rule by law and judgment. Their creator, if his sovereignty in his own creation, and over it, is to be, as it must be, absolute and inviolable, cannot but so govern them. And he must continue so to govern them, whatever other relation he may think fit to assume or to announce. That other relation, of whatever character it may be, and however originated, cannot be conceived of as making any change in the conditions of the primary relation. For if it did, it must be through their ceasing to be creatures and God ceasing to be their Creator. A monstrous imagination! - to which however I must feel myself to be literally shut up, if I am asked to make the fatherhood of God the all in.all of my religion.
I contend earnestly for the distinction of the two relations. Neither must be suffered to override the other. Neither must be merged or sunk in the other. It is one thing for me to have God as my ruler, lawgiver, judge. It is another, and an altogether different thing for me to have him as my Father. What the points of difference are, it would be premature, at this stage, to discuss. But I may briefly refer to two of them, as illustrating the importance of our keeping the relations in question quite apart, in all our conceptions and reasonings regarding them.
Rightly understood, as it seems to me, the paternal relation, in the first place, implies the enjoyment by those towards whom it is sustained of a permanent footing in the family, as opposed to one that is contingent and precarious (John viii. 35). And secondly, in consequence of its implying this, it excludes the idea of punishment, properly so called; admitting only that of chastisement (Heb. xii.) It is not the function of a father, as such, to try, or put upon probation. It is not his function to inflict a penal or retributive doom. But these are functions of that rule or government by law and judgment which God the Creator exercises and must ever exercise. Surely there is here a line of distinction and demarcation that is sufficiently clear, and that ought to be kept clear. For observe what follows if it is obliterated or lost sight of. Let the view which some extreme lovers of simplicity would advocate be adopted. Let God be simply a Father, and his government simply fatherly. Let all his administrative acts be held to be done by him as the Father of his creatures. Then this dilemma immediately presents itself. Either, on the one hand, you must include among the actings of a father, in his paternal character, the imposing of an arbitrary or discretionary conditional test and the inflicting of penal judgment; in which case, you make fatherhood little more than a name ; descriptive, perhaps, and suggestive of the general benevolence which may be supposed to temper the severity of strict rule ; but not otherwise significant of any special affection, or any special mode of treatment. Or else, on the other hand, giving to fatherhood its full and true meaning, and maintaining it to be wholly and exclusively a relation of pure fatherly love, you deny, and consistently deny, that one who sustains that relation, and governs according to it, can test in the exercise of sovereignty or punish in the execution of judgment. Probation, and especially retribution, in the true and proper sense, become thus impossible.
Let a merely human instance, in contrast with a divine ordinance, be referred to, in explanation and confirmation of my opinion, as to the evil and danger of confounding the two relations. In the Roman law, the authority of a father over his children was the very same, in nature and extent, with the authority of the civil magistrate. The Roman father had the power of life and death over his son. He was irresponsible in the exercise of his power. No other power, not even the magistrate's, could interfere with his. Nay more, he had a right to demand that his son, even when a public accusation was brought against him, should be handed over by the magistrate to the parent, for the trial of the case and the execution of the sentence. Thus in Roman law, the functions of ruler and judge were mixed up with those of father. And with what result? Surely, as every reader of history knows, with sad damage to the one relation which is the source and centre of all the sacred tenderness of home ; and with no corresponding benefit, in respect of strength or stability, to the other, on which the leal-hearted, patriotic, public spirit of the true citizen must rest. The Roman knew no substantial difference between his relation to his father and his relation to the state. Domestic affection was thus wcakened, almost to extinction ; while, to say tile least, the spirit of loyal subordination to law and its awards was not greatly strengthened.
In marked contrast with the Roman law, the Jewish law on this subject may be quoted. It draws the distinction for which I plead in a most unmistakahle and emphatic way. If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, whioh will not obey the voice of his father orthe voice of his mother and that, when they have chastised him, will not hearken unto them, then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place ; and they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice ; he is a glutton and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die" (Deut. xxi 18-21).
What can be clearer or more admirable than tile distinction here drawn between the paternal and the judicial? The limit of fatherly authority and fatherly discipline is pointedly marked. It reaches to chastisement,- - " when they have chastised him," - bnt there it stops. The rebel passes from the familiar house and warm heart of a loving and brokenhearted father, who has done his utmost and whose utmost has failed, - to the cold, calm tribunal of "the gate of his place ;" the awful seat of judgment ; there to he judicially tried by "the elders of his city," and there to be delivered over, for judicial execution, to the appointed ministers of the last sentence of the law.
I cannot stay to show the working and effect of this divine ordinance among the Jews, as contrasted with the working and effect of the merely human legislation of the Romans. With all their faults, I do not know that the Jews have ever been chargeable with want of family affection. Nor may their national loyalty be lightly called in question. All that it concerns me, for my present purpose, is the careful discrimination which the Jewish law makes between the parent and the magistrate; between the relation in which a son stands to his father, and the relation in which he stands to "the elders of his city." Nor would I press the analogy too far. One qualification at least is needed; and it is a material one.
Among the Jews, as indeed ordinarily among all the nations of mankind, the two characters or relations, the parental and the judicial, are in separate hands. They belong to separate and distinct paths. The father and the magistrate are two different persons. And in the order of nature and of natural development the father comes first. He first makes proof of his paternal relation, before he hands over his son, as a subject, to the magisterial ruler and judge. It is otherwise in the divine economy to which this analogy may be applied. There the two relations are sustained by one and the same being; the one Supreme God, who is both ruler and father.
Nor is he quite in the position of that Roman father who, being also judge, when his own son appeared at the bar, had either to pronounce the inevitable sentence of condemnation against the criminal, or to satisfy outraged justice by giving himself to suffer along with him, or to suffer instead of him. In the case of fallen man, the Creater; as governor and judge, has before his tribunal, not a disobedient son, but surly a rebellious creature and subject. He sees indeed a creature w horn he meant to be his son; whom he made to be his son. And so far, in that view; his regrets and longings are those of a deeply-disappointed father. But the criminal at his bar is not his son ; - as he was not his son before he was a criminal. He has no filial standing; no filial right or claims. He is simply a creature and a subject.
No doubt his Creator, having intended originally to adopt and own him as a son, - after probation probably as a subject, - may be pleased to draw near to him, even when upon probation he has failed and fallen, in a way indicative of that original intention; and may show his willingness to welcome him, on his return, with the fulness of the parental love and the parental blessing which he meant him from the first to possess ; - for which indeed, I repeat, he made him. Even this, however, implies a very special and peculiar manner of dealing, on the part of the Creator, with his fallen creature; the rebellious and guilty subject of his government.
For the difficulty of combining the paternal element with government properly so called, - or introducing it as a modifying or mollifying influence, - is very great. It is found to be so, when the attempt is made in human affairs; in the administration of the kingdoms of this world.
A paternal government! A king or an emperor the father of his people! A supreme Court of Parliament legislating paternally! A bench of magistrates or judges awarding paternal sentences! These are fine ideals. But how, in its application to facts, is the theory of the ruler in the state, ruling as a father, apt, and almost sure, to work? It will turn out for the most part to err, both by excess and by defect. It errs by excess; for it is apt to become too paternal in the administration of law and justice. It substitutes discipline for punishment; the rod for the sword. It errs by defect; for after all it falls far short of what a fatherly discipline would really require. It does not and cannot wield the rod with the discrimination and discretion which the use of it, as a fatherly instrument, requires; and which only the intimate familiarity of minute home-inspection, and constant home-fellowship, can enable a parent to exercise. It is ordinarily better, therefore, on the whole, that the magistrate should be content with the enforcing of his magisterial authority; under such influences as the general principle of benevolence may suggest. He cannot safely or usefully unite in himself the relation of ruler and that of father.
To do so is pre-eminently the glory of God. And it is his glory in his Son Jesus Christ. It is his having it in his power, if one may so say, to manifest and reveal a relation of fatherhood altogether distinct from the relation constituted by creation, - though closely connected with it, - that solves the difficulty and explains the mystery. He "bringeth in the first-begotten into the world" (Heb. i. 6). Sitting on the throne of sovereign and universal dominion, he does not, in fond and weak pity, sink the character of the righteous ruler in that of the relenting father. But he introduces his Son; his co-equal, co-substantial only-begotten, well-beloved Son. And he proclaims his purpose, to make all his intelligent creatures, if they will, his sons in Him.
Are they to whom the proclamation comes innocent and upright, - proved to be so by a sufficient test of their loyalty to their Creator as their righteous Lord? For them, it might seem that the mere discovery of this divine relation of fatherhood, - coupled with the assurance that it admitted of their being, so far as their nature is capable of such elevation, comprehended in its wide embrace, - would suffice to make them, without their ceasing to be subjects, sons, in and with "the first-begotten."
Is it, on the other hand, to creatures guilty and depraved that the proclamation comes? Alas! it is, as it might seem, all in vain. For in their case also it is a fixed principle, that if they are to be made sons, it must be without their ceasing to he subjects. But as subjects, they are helplessly and hopelessly condemned. They have violated law, and are doomed to the penalty annexed to its violation. They are moreover incapable of obedience to law; their carnal mind being enmity against God, the lawgiver.
How then, continuing subjects, can they ever become sons? How otherwise than by the wondrous provision of divine grace, according to which he in whom they are to be sons undertakes to right their position as subjects? First he deals with their case as it stands in law. They are condemned criminals at the bar of the righteous judge. He joins them there. He sits himself and takes his place beside them; not to plead in extenuation of their crime, or for mitigation of their punishment; for indulgence; for impunity; but as their substitute, to answer for them; to take upon his own head their guilt and doom, that a righteous sentence of legal and judicial acquittal may, by the Father's grace, be freely theirs. So he clears the way. So, being justified in the relation in which they stand as subjects under law to God their ruler and judge, they may pass into that new and divine relation in which they are to stand for ever; the relation of which Christ spoke when he sent the message from his empty sepulchre, "Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God" (John XL 17).
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