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been wont to think of Him as incapable of suffering or destitute of feeling, certainly means something. Words express ideas; God's words express God's ideas. The Holy Spirit has chosen and employed this term to describe a certain state of the Divine Mind in view of the sin and suffering of His creatures. And we can understand it only by our knowledge of what we have seen of it in other men and felt of it in ourselves.
A very prevalent, if not a very popular notion of God conceives Him as a pure spirit, of infinite intelligence, wisdom, and power, spotless in holiness, enthroned in awful majesty, in the possession of supreme and absolute authority, ruling all things according to His own will, graciously accepting homage and service, jealously guarding His own sovereign dignity, and wrathfully inflicting punishment upon them who disobey Him; but otherwise sitting passionless upon His throne and unmoved in feeling. He seems to them to be made up chiefly of cold intellect and absolute will. Now, it is not to be denied that the Scriptures do give of Him some representations that impress one more with a view of His majesty, His holiness, and His power than of anything else, exhibiting to us His terrible side; but this is not their full and fair representation of Him. It leaves out too much. There have been periods in the history of the race when some such views were necessary. When, for instance, the law was given at Sinai, it was needful to impress the Hebrews, just escaped from the debasing bondage of centuries, with a conviction of the greatness and holiness of the God who had delivered them, and then claimed their service; and especially of His infinite superiority to the gods of Egypt, or any other gods. So He caused the mountain to tremble at His presence, and a thick darkness to settle down upon its summit, with thunderings, lightnings, ascending smoke "as the smoke of a furnace," and the sound of a trumpet. This could only awaken their terror, as they stood in that awful presence; and then, to crown the whole, a voice spoke to them, so clear and loud, that the commandments uttered were heard in the remotest part of the encampment. Such an exhibition to their senses was necessary in order to their adequate comprehension of God's authority and hatred of sin. If their dullness and hardness rendered it only partially successful, we may well wonder what they would have become and done had it never been made.
This side of God's character was necessary once, and its lesson remains for all time. He is great, holy, infinite. But we are bound to take some additional things into our view, for the revelation of Himself to men is complete and many-sided. He is the same Being now that He has always been; only He has been fully manifested to the world through His onlybegotten Son. Yet the partial view above spoken of still remains in many minds. To them God seems wise and just; but cold, unloving, and determined to pour out His wrath upon sinners, from which He is deterred only by the interposition and pleading of His Son. God the Father is, in their conceptions, full of vengeance; God the Son it is who grieves over human woe, loves, pities, has compassion, and seeks to save. By the Son's sacrifice of Himself the Father's vengeful feelings are satisfied, and men may be saved.
This is an utter perversion of the truth. There is no such antagonism as is here represented. The justice of God, one of His essential attributes, could not allow the bestowal of pardon without a previous expiation; but it was the Father's love which provided the sufficient sacrifice for sin. "God is love," and He has proved it by sending His own Son into the world to die for sinners. This is a side of His character not seen in the giving of the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, but none the less belonging to it.
Let us divest ourselves of the idea that God is a grand, majestic, cold abstraction, and believe that He has a heart to feel, as well as an intellect to think. Only thus can we understand what is meant by those Scriptures which attribute to Him affections and emotions. He is full of love; He, therefore, pities the fallen, grieves for the wretched, and compassionates the suffering. He does not mock us when He tells us of His sympathy for men. If we are told that such expressions are employed to bring the facts down to our comprehension, we insist that it be admitted that there are facts which underlie them and are fairly represented by them. So it still remains that God is grieved by sin, that He hates and abhors it, that He pities the sinner, and delights in them that love Him. And, if it be said that, by adhering so strongly to such words, we are lowering the proper idea of God, we reply that we the rather exalt Him by taking the exact representation which He has given of His own perfections. The soul wants a God that can meet its needs; and not a God stripped of all but cold intellect and mighty will, or, worse still, reduced to a blind force. We look into our own minds, and we learn what He means by love and grief. For God made man in His own image, with intellectual and moral traits of the same nature with His own; and He more than once appeals to these traits, and our knowledge of them, as grounds of our judgment of Himself. Or we may take the man Christ Jesus, in whom were none of the perversions of sin, who could say to Philip "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," and believe that in Him God was trying to make Himself as manifest to men as possible, and show us as nearly as He could how He thinks and feels and acts.
How much nearer to us the thought that God has a heart to feel brings Him. As a loving Father, He grieves when His children offend Him; but His grief has in it no perturbed feeling as in men. It is, nevertheless, a great reality, to be measured only by the infiniteness of His nature. By all His purity He loathes and hates sin, and by all His justice He must condemn and punish it; but equally by all His love is He grieved by it, and especially when men sin against light and knowledge, against the admonitions of conscience, and against the abundant exhibitions of His mercy and long-suffering. No man has a right to say of Him that He does not care for sin; or, if He cares, He cares only to punish. He does care for the sin, and for the misery it causes, and even for the punishment that He will finally inflict. They have read the Scriptures to little purpose who fail to see His tender-heartedness among the characteristics of Himself which He has taken special pains to make prominent in their pages. all their affliction He was afflicted," are words that mean what they say.
Out of the depths of His great heart came the sacrifice of His own Son for the sins of men. Christ wept over sinners. Does not God have the very feeling that in Jesus expressed itself in tears? And, as we look forward to the day of final judgment, can we doubt that the just and awful word "Depart" will strike the deeper home because of the manifest sorrow for their ruin which will accompany its utterance?
Sympathy with God.
We all know very well what sympathy among men is. We know it is an emotion of a very peculiar and distinctive quality.
Sympathy is not the same as admiration. We admire many with whom we do not sympathise. Sympathy is not the same as pity. Pity may, indeed, sometimes be an ingredient of sympathy; but we oftentimes sympathise with many who have no possible need of our pity. Sympathy is not the same as love. We love frequently those with whom, nevertheless, we cannot sympathise.
No! Sympathy is that emotion which arises from harmony with another in the emotion which he feels. It results from a kind of mental putting of ourselves in another's place. It comes from sharing-not merely observing -the feelings and purposes which actuate him.
Now is such a sentiment as this a legitimate one to feel toward God? Perfectly, I answer. Sympathy with God is one of the most valid and practical emotions a man can feel.
But does some one object that the infinite distance at which God is removed from men in the volume and quality of His being, constitutes a bar to this emotion? No, I reply, it does not constitute a bar.
The humble day-labourer who digs some garden-patch in the obscure corner of a vast empire, is at a very considerable remove from the statesman who directs that empire's affairs. The private soldier of a great army is widely separated from the general-in-chief who orders that army by his single will. But both of them may sympathise with those above them. The benignity of the statesman's intent, the patriotism of the commander's purpose, are matters which, just so far as they are understood, bring both of them within the reach, not of admiration and reverence only, but of sympathy.
However great a being may be, all that is necessary to awaken sympathy with him, is some measure of knowledge of what he is and does, and approbation of what is known. Grant this, and we can leap across an even infinite remove, and can exercise a fellow-feeling even toward God. But certainly the knowledge of God is not wanting to men. God Himself has provided for the importation of this knowledge by the very act of making man in His own image. And having made him so, He has poured in upon him through a hundred avenues the truth respecting Himself upon which man's intelligence can fasten. He has shown to us His character. He has revealed to us His plans. He has let us into the motives which actuate Him. He has told us what He loves and what He hates.
And now all that is requisite to awaken sympathy with God in any human heart, is an active and loving approbation of what God has made known. Feeling this, a man feels with God. The emotion is not mere admiration or even love. It is a sympathetic responsiveness of soul by which a man joins himself to God in the fellowship of a common experience. He who thus feels is, in the Scripture phrase, one spirit with the Lord."
But perhaps the reality of this sympathy with God may be vivified to some minds by mentioning one or two points when its exercise is sometimes practically manifest.
God's feeling of compassion toward sinners may afford one example. How God feels toward lost men He has not left us vaguely to conjecture. He has written the declaration out for us in Bethlehem and Calvary. The measureless pathos of Christ's humiliated life, and the unfathomed wonder of His dying pains, tell us how God loves sinning men and longs to rescue them. Now is it possible for a man so to sympathise with God in this feeling as almost to sink and lose his own individuality of interest and aim, in his response to this feeling of God? Men have so sympathised with God. The emotion of God in this matter has entered into them and almost consumed them by its power. Paul, willing himself to be cursed from Christ if his nation might be saved; Martyn, driven by his fiery desire across and across Asia to his early grave; Payson, crying in his agony, "Give me souls or I die”—these are illustrations not to be gainsaid of sympathy with God in His pity for sinning men.
Or there may be sympathy with God in His opposition to iniquity. God is setting Himself against evil every day. His heart is in the conflict which right and wrong are waging the world over. Not His hand only but His will and determinations are engaged in it.
But in this longing and endeavour, man also can sympathise. It can become the very aim and passion of a man's soul. It did become so to Knox, striving to render afresh the fetter in which Scottish consciences were bound by the delusions of the Papacy. It did become so to Wilberforce, crying in the midst of an almost unheeding generation against the iniquity of human slavery. It is so still in God's militant servants, striving on many a hard-fought battle-field to war for the right and the pure, against the false and corrupt.
There are but two illustrations of that sympathy with God which over a wide range, and in many and many a point beside, it is permitted to a man to feel. Yes, man can feel it, and in that feeling become united to God.
He can become one spirit with the Lord," in living abiding sympathy. In all reverence it may be said he feels as one putting himself in God's place. No other feeling he knows, no other purpose he cherishes, can be so vital or so controlling as that feeling and purpose of God which he recognises and makes his own. G. L. WALKER.
MORNING prayer in the family is the time to keep the rest of the day from revelling.
Live for Something.
LIVE for something, be not idle-
Scatter blessings in thy pathway!
Gladden well the darkened hearth.
Hearts that are oppressed and weary,
Drop the tear of sympathy,
Give, and thy reward shall be
Joy unto thy soul returning,
From this perfect fountain head.
Freely as thou freely givest,
Shall the grateful light be shed.
Parable of the Sower.-No. 6.
Sower. No. 6. The Soil-The Good
IN Matthew, our Lord's explanation is this : He that receiveth seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty." In Mark, for "understand " we have the word "receive." Luke's version is peculiar, but concurrent, and significant : "That on the good ground are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." In the expression in Matthew, "Which also beareth fruit," the word "also" should rather have been rendered "now"; the idea being, that after a three-fourth's wading through wilderness soil, we now at length strike good, fruit-bearing ground.
Taking the three evangelists together, and analysing their statements,