LUKE 16:25.—“But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”
AT first sight, it appears singular that the unbelieving and impenitent Dives, in the very place of retribution, should be addressed by Abraham “the father of believers” by the endearing title of “son.” This word, however, as employed in the Scriptures, has more than one signification. It may denote only the benevolent and kindly relation existing between the Creator and the creature, as when the apostle Paul quotes approvingly the sentiment of the pagan poet: “We are his offspring;” or as when St. Luke, tracing up the genealogy of Christ to the beginning of creation, calls Adam the “son of God.” And it may also mark merely the relation of dependence and inferiority, in some particular, existing between man and man. In such connections as these, the term does not necessarily imply any real filial feeling on the part of the so-called son, or teach that the one to whom it is applied is in affectionate and childlike sympathy with the one who applies it.
Joshua, for instance, addresses the guilty Achan, who had stolen the Babylonish garment and the wedge of gold, with this endearing title. “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.” Achan was not a son in feeling, and in truth. He loved neither God, nor Joshua the servant of God. Hence, notwithstanding this employment of the epithet, “Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan, the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had, and stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire.” In like manner, in the text, Abraham who had been called “father” by the sinful Dives—“Father Abraham, have mercy upon me”—addresses the guilty creature of God as son: “Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”
The phraseology employed in this parable of our Lord, together with such a use of the term “son” as that made by Joshua in reference to Achan, throws light upon the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God.
It is of the utmost consequence that we make no mistake respecting this important truth. In what sense, then, is God the Father of all men; and in what sense is he not the Father of all men? For it is clear that God does not sustain the same relation in every respect to all mankind equally and alike. He is not the Father of Judas Iscariot and Nero, in the identical sense in which he is of the apostle John and archbishop Leighton. He is not the Father of an impenitent Messalina, in the same way that he is of a brokenhearted Magdalen. For in the former case there is no affectionate filial feeling; and God, by his prophet Malachi, says to any and every man who would use the endearing term while at the same time he does not cherish the appropriate emotions: “A son honoreth his father; if then I be a father, where is mine honor?” If the children of men, if any class of creatures, presume to denominate the Eternal One their Father, certainly they should evince their sincerity by the exercise of the correspondent sentiment.
I. In answering the first question, we remark that God is the Father of all men indiscriminately and without exception, in that he is their Creator.
The author of any being or thing is naturally denominated its father. “Have we not one father? Hath not one God created us?” (Mal. 2:10). “Hath the rain a father? And who hath begotten the drops of the dew?” (Job 38:28). When the devil “speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own”—of what he himself has invented and made—“for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). “Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights”—the originating author of all illumination, physical or mental (James 1:17). “To find the Maker and Father of the universe,” says Plato, “is a difficult task” (Timaeus, 28). In this sense, God is the Father of all men indiscriminately. The hardened transgressor who is to be sent to everlasting perdition, and the penitent believer who is to be raised to heights of glory, here stand upon the same plane. They are of that “one blood” of which God made all mankind; and there is no difference between them. They are alike his “offspring,” and he is alike their Father. This is the common basis upon which all creatures appear. The rich and the poor, the saint and the sinner here meet together, and the Lord is equally the Maker and providential Father of them all.
Such a common relationship as this to the Divine providence and benevolence justifies the use of the word “father” in a secondary and qualified meaning. God, because he created the human soul, is profoundly interested in it. He does not and cannot hate any substance that he has made. That rational and immortal spirit which he originated from nothing, and endowed with attributes resembling his own, is very dear to him as its maker. This is evinced by the care which he takes of it. He maintains it in being by a positive act of omnipotence, and he is continually supplying its multiplied wants. Were it not for his perpetual benevolence and oversight, the soul and body of man would sink into non-existence, or be overwhelmed by suffering and pain.
Now, such an interest in the constitutional structure of his creatures on the part of God, justifies his calling himself “the Father of the spirits of all flesh.” And every human being, whatever his moral character, is an object of benevolent and paternal concern to his maker. Even when he is transgressing the Divine law, the Divine hand that made him holds him in existence, crowns his life with blessings, makes the sun to shine upon him, and the rain to fall upon his broad acres, as if he were a child in the high and tender meaning of the word.
II. But while this is so, and should awaken sorrow in every man for his rebellion and ingratitude, it is nevertheless a fact that God is not the Father of all men indiscriminately in the highest and fullest sense of the term—their Father by redemption and adoption.
For man in his unrenewed state is an enemy of God. “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). We are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). This is the attitude in which, by reason of apostacy, man stands towards his kind and benevolent Creator. And this attitude is incompatible with the relation of father and child in the full, tender, and affectionate meaning of these terms. With such an inimical feeling in the heart, it is impossible to cry, “Abba, Father!” An enemy of God cannot sincerely say, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Hence the apostle describes the change that is made by regeneration, in the following language: “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry Father, Father. The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”
Previously to this, the parties have been estranged from each other. Sinful man fears his holy Maker, and his holy Maker frowns upon sinful man. And these words are to be taken in their strict meaning upon both sides. It is a false view that represents God as really complacent towards every man irrespective of his character, and that it is only the creature’s groundless fear that stands in the way of a pleasant and happy intercourse. God really and truly makes a difference in his own mind and feeling between the man that obeys and confides in him, and the man who disobeys and distrusts him. He is positively displeased with the transgressor of his law, and the reconciliation which is effected by the atonement of Christ is mutual. God’s holiness is reconciled to man, and man is reconciled to God. When a penitent sinner trusts in the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then the triune God becomes his Father in the high and endearing signification of the term, and the man becomes a child of God in the same signification. The relation which is now established between the parties is not merely that of the creature to the Creator—a relation that does not necessarily involve love and obedience—but there is mutual affection, and delightful intercourse and communion.
On the evening of the night in which Chalmers was summoned instantaneously from earth to heaven, he was overheard while walking in his garden uttering in earnest and affectionate tones: “My Father, O my heavenly Father.” This is childhood in the full sense; and this is the Divine fatherhood in its blessed truth and reality. “As many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). “I have often found,” says Bunyan, “that when I can say but this word Father, it doth me more good than if I called him by any other Scripture name. It is worth your noting, that to call God by this title was rare among the saints in Old Testament times.
Seldom do you find him called by this name—no, sometimes not in three or four books; but now, in New Testament times, he is called by no name so often as this, both by the Lord Jesus himself, and by the apostles afterwards. Indeed, the Lord Jesus was he that first made the name common among the saints, and that taught them, both in their discourse, their prayers, and their writings, so much to use it; it being more pleasing to God, and discovering more plainly our interest in God, than any other expression. For by this one name, we are made to understand that all our mercies are the offspring of God, and that we also that are called are his children by adoption.”
Having thus briefly explained the senses in which God is and is not the Father of all men, we turn to deduce some practical lessons from the subject.
1. In the first place, we see how it is possible for God to be both a Father and a Judge at one and the same time, and to both love and abhor simultaneously.
The reader of the Bible observes sometimes with perplexity, that God is represented as looking upon man with two wholly diverse emotions. The Scriptures seem to be self-contradictory. Sometimes God appears as yearning over man in compassion; and sometimes as consuming him with the blast of the breath of his nostrils. Sometimes his utterance is: “Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die? As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. The Lord doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” And sometimes the declaration is: “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity. God is angry with the wicked every day. Who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry! Who knoweth the power of thine anger! Even according to thy fear so is thy wrath. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness. He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
How can these two feelings co-exist in one and the same Being, towards one and the same person? How can blessing and cursing proceed out of the same mouth? How can the same fountain send forth both sweet waters and bitter? Must we not assume that one or the other of these declarations is figurative, and in this way harmonize the Bible with itself?
In the light of the distinction between God as the benevolent creator and preserver of all men—their providential Father in the general sense, and God as the redeeming and reconciled Father of penitent believers—their Father in the special sense, we find the clue to the difficulty. The kindly and benevolent feeling of the general paternity may co-exist with the holy displeasure of the righteous Judge. Even an imperfect man is capable of such a double emotion. A kind earthly father, or a gentle mother, may be filled with most intense displeasure at the hardened wickedness and profligacy of a child, and yet at the same time would gladly lay down life to secure his repentance and eternal welfare. By reason of the father’s or the mother’s moral excellence and resemblance to God, there can be nothing but abhorrence of the child’s sin; and if the parent should be informed from an infallible source that the child would never repent, but would continue a hardened and wilful transgressor through all eternity, he would not only acquiesce in the judgment of God that banished him from heaven, but would say with all the holy, “Amen: so it must be, so it should be.”
For sin is an evil and a terrible thing, and even the dearest earthly ties cannot induce a holy and spiritual mind to approve of it, or desire that it should escape the merited punishment. And yet that parent is ready for any self-sacrifice that would deliver the rebellious and transgressing child from sin, and the penalty of sin. He says with David over the dead body of his wicked son: “O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” And, with David, he never presumes to question the righteousness of the divine procedure in the punishment of a hardened transgressor, even though that transgressor be bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.
The feeling of displeasure with which God regards sin belongs to his pure and perfect nature, and it is impossible for him to exist without it.
It is no more optional with him to abhor iniquity, than it is to be omnipotent or omnipresent. God must, from his very nature and idea, be all-powerful, and in every place; and for the same reason he must react against evil wherever it exists. But at the same time he has no malice in his nature. He wishes well to every creature whom he has made. He cherishes a benevolent, and in this sense a paternal feeling towards every rational spirit. Even a little sparrow does not fall dead to the ground without his taking an interest in it; and certainly, then, he cannot be inspired with any malicious or unkind emotion toward the rational and immortal spirits who are of more value than many sparrows. The Creator can feel a natural and necessary abhorrence of the sinner’s sin, while yet he feels an infinite compassion for the sinner’s soul.
Says Augustine: “It is written, ‘God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.’ He loved us, therefore, even when in the exercise of enmity against him we were working iniquity. And yet it is said with perfect truth: ‘Thou hatest, O Lord, all workers of iniquity.’ Wherefore, in a wonderful and divine manner he both hated and loved us at the same time. He hated us as being different from what he had made us; but as our iniquity had not entirely destroyed his work within us, he could at the same time, in every one of us, hate what we had done, and love what he had created.”
God loves man as a creature, while he is angry with him as a sinner.
He takes a deep and tender interest in the soul which he has made and keeps in existence, while he is filled with a deep displeasure at the sin which is in that soul. Where is the inconsistency in the simultaneous existence of these two emotions? Each is exercised towards its proper object. The love goes out towards the soul as such; and the wrath goes out towards the sin as such. The sin is in the soul and cannot be separated from it except by the substitution of holiness in its place. If, then, any man retains the sinfulness of his soul, he must not expect that God’s general benevolence and providential paternity will nullify his holiness; that his interest in the workmanship of his hands will overcome his regard for truth and righteousness, and induce him to let sin go unpunished. The providential paternity of God, and the universal sonship of man, are consistent with the punishment of incorrigible and hardened depravity.
2. In the second place, we learn from this subject, that it is our duty to exercise the same feelings towards the soul of man, and the sin of man, that God does.
We are commanded to imitate God in his moral perfections. “Be ye holy for I am holy. Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” We cannot obey these injunctions without sympathizing with God in his benevolent love for the human soul, and his holy disapprobation of human sinfulness. And this sympathy should be seen first in reference to ourselves, and then in regard to others. We have no right to treat other souls differently from our own.
Religion must begin at home, and hence while we cherish a rational love for our own souls, we should at the same time sternly condemn and abhor our own personal sin. A man should both love and hate himself. While he says: “Skin for skin, yea, all that I have I will give for my life,” he should also say, “I abhor myself.” While he is deeply anxious for his own well-being here and hereafter, he should sympathize with his holy Maker in abominating the iniquity of his own heart. These two feelings are not incompatible. Nay, we never begin to love ourselves aright, until we begin to condemn and hate our sins.
And, certainly, if we deal in this manner with our own souls and our own sins, we are entitled to deal in this manner with the souls and sins of others. As we mingle in society and come in contact with our fellow creatures and our fellow sinners, we ought to feel the same desire that God does for their soul’s welfare, and the same abhorrence which he feels for their soul’s sin. No malice, no envy, no ill-will, towards any creature of God should ever rise within us. We ought to wish well to the whole rational universe. Such was the angelic song: “Peace on earth, and good will to men.” As creatures simply, and not taking their sinfulness into account, we should love all men indiscriminately, and desire their happiness in time and eternity. But when we leave out this characteristic, and contemplate any man as an antagonist of God, and a bitter enemy of that holy and perfect Being, we should be filled with a righteous displeasure, and desire his punishment. We should say with David: “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them mine enemies” (Ps. 139:21, 22).
And if we have done all this in reference to ourselves personally, mankind will not complain if we subject them to the same tests, and treat them in the same manner. Nay, more, we shall do them good by our impartiality and sincerity. If we really love their souls, they will let us hate their sins. If we labor and pray, that as creatures of God, and capable of eternal purity and joy, they do not go down to perdition, they will not object to the severest denunciation of their iniquity.
It is the duty of the Church to sympathize with God in all his feelings towards a world lying in wickedness. Christians must not be inspired with any mere sentimentalism in reference to the sins and sorrows of man, for God is not. With him they must look with a clear, impartial eye, and remember that wherever there is suffering in the universe of God, there is sin. These sorrows of humanity are the consequence of the guilt of humanity, and when we look upon them, either in our own case or that of others, we are to say: “Just and righteous art thou, O God, in all this punitive infliction. Man has transgressed, and therefore he suffers. Death hath passed upon all men, because all have sinned.” And on the other hand, we are to sympathize with God in his tender concern for the soul, as distinguished from the sin.
We are to see in every fellow man a spark of the Divine intelligence; a partaker, as St. Peter says, of a divine nature; an immortal spirit similar to the Eternal Spirit, and destined to live forever. We are to remember that such an essence as this is worth saving; that it is an infinite loss when it goes to perdition, and that no sacrifice is too great to save it. God, who looks into the nature of things, saw its value and shrank not from the most costly sacrifice. He spared not his own Son but gave him up in order that the soul, the rational deathless nature of man, might be saved.
What an increase of power would be imparted to the Church, if every member of it were filled with these two emotions, pure and simple, which dwell in the bosom of God. There would be no self-indulgence in sin, and no weak and fond indulgence of sin in others. The eye would be single, solemn, piercing, holy. A healthy conscience would brace up and strengthen the entire man, and he would go forth into the world, a terror to evildoers, and a praise to them who do well. And at the same time, this Christian would be a very tender-hearted creature. He would feel the worth of every soul in itself, abstracted from the sin that is in it. His heart would yearn towards it, as an emanation from God, and an immortal thing for which Christ died. His works would follow his faith, and he would labor and pray for its welfare, with a solemnity, a persistence, and a holy earnestness, that would certainly receive the Divine approbation and blessing.
3. In the third place, this subject furnishes a test of a renewed and spiritual mind.
A worldly mind is selfish in its love, and selfish in its hatred.
It is displeased with sin when it interferes with its own enjoyment, and it is pleased with righteousness when it promotes its own happiness. If the worldling loses something in his own mind, body, or estate, by the theft or the lie of a transgressor, he inveighs bitterly against these particular sins. And if he is the gainer in his worldly circumstances by the industry, honesty, or godliness of a Christian man, he is profuse in his praise of these virtues and graces. But he does not love holiness for its own intrinsic excellence, neither does he hate sin because of its abstract odiousness. If the sins of his fellow men would promote his selfish purposes, he would encourage them, and be highly displeased at any attempt to check or remove them. His character and feelings are exactly the reverse of those of God. He has no love for the soul of his fellow man as the workmanship of the Creator, and no abhorrence of his sin as an evil thing in itself and under all circumstances. He cares not what becomes of the immortal part of his fellow creature. He never toils or prays for its welfare. And his feelings towards the sins of a fellow creature depend entirely upon how his interests are affected by them.
Terrible as is the fact, it is nevertheless a fact, that the selfishness of the natural heart hesitates not to sacrifice the very soul, the very being itself, of a fellow creature, in order to attain its own purposes. Alexander and Napoleon, in the prosecution of their plans, used the bodies and minds of millions of their fellow men as the potter uses the passive clay. And how many there are, in narrower circles than those of the conqueror and the monarch, who do the same thing, and are madly rushing to the same condemnation.
But not so with the true child of God. He loves the soul, and hates the sin.
His feeling in each instance is pure, spiritual, disinterested. He loves his own soul and abhors his own sin. And he does by others as he does by himself. He is not displeased with the transgressions of men merely because they injure his private interests. He would gladly suffer that loss, if thereby he could secure their repentance and reformation. He abhors their iniquity for its own intrinsic quality, as God abhors it. His hatred of moral evil is spiritual, disinterested, holy, like that of his Father in heaven, with whom he sympathizes, and for whose honor he is jealous. And his love for the welfare of every man indiscriminately partakes of the same spirituality.
He is ready to toil, give of his substance, and pray for the salvation of fellow creatures whom he never saw, and never will see until he stands with them at the judgment seat. He needs no introduction in order to take an interest in a lost man. The heathen in the heart of China or of Africa lie with as much weight upon his heart and conscience, as do the impenitent in his own neighborhood.
Worldly men sometimes wonder, and sometimes scoff, at the interest which the Church of God is taking in the millions of paganism who are thousands of miles away from them. They tell us that the heathen are at our own doors, and regard this great endeavor to obey the last command of Christ to preach the gospel to every creature, as quixotic and visionary. But they feel no Divine love for man as the image of God; as a creature who came from the same plastic hand that they came from; as an immortal spirit possessing the same properties and qualities that they are possessed of; and above all, as the object of the same Divine pity in the blood of Christ by which they themselves must be saved, if saved at all. They have no fellow-feeling with their race; and what is yet more, they have no sympathy with God the Redeemer of man.
It is obvious that this is a very searching and a very accurate test of Christian character. It is possible to cherish a religiousness that is so selfish, so destitute of warm and disinterested love for human welfare, as to deserve condemnation. This is the weak side, this is the great defect, in some very interesting phases of religious character.
Look at the mediæval monk and his severe spiritual experiences. He is constantly occupied with the salvation of his soul. He thinks of nothing else, and lives for nothing else. And yet in finding his life he loses it. All these experiences are a refined form of self-love. He has merely transferred his self-seeking from time to eternity. What he needs is, to love others as he loves himself; to break out from his seclusion and preach the gospel to his fellow men. Having freely received, he should freely give. Those are truthful and discriminating remarks which the historian of Latin Christianity makes respecting the famous treatise on the “Imitation of Christ,” in which this species of piety finds its finest and most winning delineation. “Its sole, single, exclusive object,” he says, “is the purification, the elevation of the individual soul, of the man absolutely isolated from his kind, of the man dwelling alone in solitude in the hermitage of his own thoughts; with no fears or hopes, no sympathies of our common nature: he has absolutely withdrawn and secluded himself not only from the cares, the sins, the trials, but from the duties, the connections, the moral and religious fate of the world. Never was misnomer so glaring, if justly considered, as the title of the book, the ‘Imitation of Christ.’
That which distinguishes Christ, that which distinguishes Christ’s apostles, that which distinguishes Christ’s religion—the love of man—is entirely and absolutely left out. Had this been the whole of Christianity, our Lord himself (with reverence be it said) had lived like an Essene, working out or displaying his own sinless perfection by the Dead Sea: neither on the mount, nor in the temple, nor even on the cross. The apostles had dwelt entirely on the internal emotions of their own souls, each by himself; St. Peter still by the lake Gennessaret, St. Paul in the desert of Arabia, St. John in Patmos. Christianity had been without any exquisite precept for the purity, the happiness of social or domestic life; without self-sacrifice for the good of others; without the higher Christian patriotism, devotion on evangelic principles to the public weal; without even the devotion of the missionary for the dissemination of gospel truth; without the humbler and gentler daily self-sacrifice for relatives, for the wife, the parent, the child. Christianity had never soared to be the civilizer of the world. ‘Let the world perish, so the single soul can escape on its solitary plank from the general wreck,’ such had been its final axiom.”
4. In the fourth place, we learn from this subject, how sad must be the final condition of those who never become the “dear children” of God, and to whom God is not a Father in the high and endearing sense of these terms.
It is a frequent remark, that a blessing or a privilege when abused or perverted becomes the greatest of curses. And so it is in this instance. If we pervert and abuse the relation which as creatures we sustain to our Creator—if we live upon his bounty, and yet rebel against his authority—the fact that we are his offspring will only increase our condemnation. This paternal interest which God takes in us as his workmanship—this care, this protection, this providence which guards and guides us every day—if it be accompanied with no suitable feeling and action upon our part, will only result in a severer punishment. Unless by faith and repentance we come to be more than the creatures of God; unless we become children and he becomes a Father in the full and blessed sense, our God and Father in Christ; there is no peace or joy possible for us.
It will be no source of comfort to remember that he is the providential Father of all spirits by creation. The devils themselves share in this general fatherhood and benevolence of the Supreme Being. There is no malice in the Eternal Mind toward the arch-fiend himself. That fallen and wicked spirit is as dependent as he ever was upon the sustaining providence of the Most High. He is as much as ever the offspring of the Almighty. In this sense, he is still a son of the Highest. But this only renders him the more intensely guilty and unhappy. He has abused, and he is still and ever abusing the Divine benevolence, the Divine beneficence, the Divine providence, the Divine paternity. He has no filial feeling towards the Universal Parent, and therefore God is not his God and Father. He never says: “Our Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.”
And so it is and must be in every instance of this kind. It is precisely so with the impenitent, the unfilial, the alienated man. Unless the prodigal returns to his original relations, the fact that by creation God is his Father will render his condemnation more just and righteous, and his condition more wretched. It will be embittered by the reflection, that from first to last God was good and kind to him; that he never in the least injured the dependent creature whom he called into being; that he never felt the least ill-will towards him, but on the contrary cared for him, and did him good all the days of his life—in short, that he exercised towards him all the paternal feeling that was possible in the case.
But there is one phase of a father’s feeling which it is impossible for God to exhibit in such an instance as this. The creature has become his enemy. He opposes his will to that of God; his carnal mind is not subject to the law of God. The tender and affectionate feeling of a father cannot be manifested under such circumstances. All that God can do in this case is to continue to exhibit his general benevolence and providential fatherhood, with the desire that it may soften the hard heart, and that “the goodness of God may lead to repentance.” But if it all fails, if the creature to the end abuses this kindness and persists in his enmity and hatred, then the benevolent Creator must assume his function of Judge, and when the final day arrives must sentence this wicked and impenitent offspring of his to everlasting perdition, as he has sentenced the rebellious angels before him.
Lay, then, this truth to heart. God cannot be a Father to any man who cannot from the fulness of his heart cry unto him, “My Father.” His entreaty by his prophet is: “Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Father, be thou the guide of my youth.” This entreaty, though primarily addressed to the young, is intended for all. God desires to be more than our Creator. He is not content with bestowing these temporal and providential blessings with which he is crowning our life. He desires to impart the richer gifts of his grace. He would give not merely his gifts, but Himself to his creatures. But the creature repulses him.
How many a man is at this very moment saying to his Maker: “Give me wealth, give me health, give me worldly ease and pleasure, give me intellectual power and fame, give me political influence and sway in the land, but do not give me Thyself.” Is such a heart as this fitted for the world of light and love? Is this the utterance of a child? Can God be a dear Father to such a one? It is impossible from the nature of the case.
Lay, not, then the flattering unction to your soul, that the universal fatherhood of God is sufficient to secure your eternal welfare. That is a great and glorious truth, but if you never get beyond it in your religious experience, to the doctrine of the special and endearing fatherhood of God in Christ, it will minister to your condemnation and everlasting woe.
Seek, then, to enter into a truly filial relation with your Maker. Rest not until you have made your peace with God’s holiness and justice by his blood of atonement, and then you will “know with all saints the height and depth” of his fatherly love in Christ, “which passeth knowledge.”
William G. T. Shedd, Sermons to the Spiritual Man, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1884), 50–68.