And saying, Sirs, why do you these things? We also are men of like passions with you…
Is God real? This is the question of the ages. Four philosophers are discussing it together. The first says, "There is no God." This is the atheist. The second says, "I cannot tell, and therefore I do not think about it." This is the agnostic. The third says, "I cannot be sure that God is, nor what He is; but I think He is thus and so, and I act upon this supposition." The fourth says, "God is: I know Him." This is the apostle of religion. We have to ask, Which of these four has the facts on his side? In regard to the first, he stands alone, and is in the difficult position of having to prove a positive by negatives. He must sweep the universe from end to end, and show that it is empty, and prove that an effect may exist without a cause. The second and third stand together in theory, though they differ in practice. They both admit the idea of God, but they cannot discover the reality. The second says that he will have nothing to do with it. But the third declares it is so beautiful that he will worship it and make it the guide of his life. Now, in regard to their common view, one thing is clear. It is unreasonable. For if there were no God it would be impossible for us to find traces of Him. But if He is in the universe, there must be evidences of His being and power. We have, therefore, an antecedent probability in favour of the fourth view.
I. THE WORLD IS FULL OF GOD. He is on every side of you. You touch not His substance, nor see His face, but He is here as really as light, gravity, electricity, though you cannot see them. You know them; they are manifested by their workings. So God is manifested in the world. There are three forms in which this manifestation comes to us. Power, wisdom, beauty.
1. Look at these mighty forces which permeate our globe. Do not all these tell us of a living fountain of force? The heathen saw in a lightning flash a thunderbolt hurled by Jupiter. We call it an effect of electricity. But what is electricity but an effluence of an Almighty Will?
2. But consider how wonderfully these forces, and the material substances which they are incessantly changing, are adapted to the production of certain definite and desirable results. No intelligent person can fail to see in the universe that which in any human production we should call wisdom, though on a scale much more vast. How intricate and majestic the combination of forces which keeps the heavens balanced; how skilful and exact the construction of the eye!
3. And then, the beauty of it all! Whence is this derived? If the universe were but a vast machine, what power could it have to touch our spirits? Why should our hearts leap up when we behold a rainbow? It is but the refraction of certain rays of light in certain drops of water. An orchard in the springtime; a field of golden grain in summer, etc., these are but chemical effects, the natural results of the changes of the seasons. Why should they be so lovely? Surely the grain, the fruit, the snow, could have been produced just as well without beauty. Who has informed them with this gracious splendour? God it is whose presence makes the world alive with beauty: He it is whose vision thrills us when we know it not.
II. IN THE MORAL WORLD we touch Him yet more closely: He reveals Himself to us as a person. Here we stand in another world from that which is known to our senses. Absolutely different from the feelings of wonder or delight at the things which are seen is the sentiment of moral obligation, the distinction between right and wrong, the voluntary movement of the soul under the laws of good and evil. No external force, no law of nature, no command of man can create that which we call duty; and yet it is a reality which we cannot question. Nothing in the universe is more real than this, and in this I touch God. He it is that commands and binds me. He reveals to me this world within the world, and summons me to live aright. The universe is filled with His voice, saying, "Thou shalt," and "Thou shalt not." But, mark you, there is no constraint laid upon me. My will is free. I can, I must, choose for myself between good and evil. And here is the wonder of it; here is the manifest presence of the living God. For if the moral law were natural and impersonal, it would bind us resistlessly as gravity or electricity.
III. WE FIND GOD IN THE WORLD AS AN HISTORICAL REALITY. Just as we know the reality of the Persian, or the Grecian, or the Roman empires by their records on stone or parchment, by the traces which they have left in the world, so we know that God is a reality by the records sod results of His dealings with men. If you deny all traces of a supreme Providence, the history of the world becomes an inexplicable fable. How has the race been preserved in numberless perils? how have human industry and knowledge and character been unfolded and developed? how, amid the crash of falling empires and the dust of ruined civilisations, have learning and virtue been kept alive, and the happiness of humanity enlarged century by century; if it be not by the indwelling and in working of an almighty and all-wise Governor? God in history is a reality. And more than this, we have the actual record of His special dealings with men and nations. The Bible is a history of men and of God. Above all, He has shined forth clearly in the person and life of Jesus Christ. This Divine-human Master and Saviour of men is to us the unshaken evidence of the reality of God. When we see Him we see the Father, for He and the Father are one.
IV. IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE, the life of faith and hope and love and prayer, we meet and touch the living God. No mere vision of distempered sleep was that experience of Jacob, by the ford of Jabbok. It was a reality. When the tide of penitence sweeps over the soul, and we are humbled in the dust crying for pardon, have we not felt the touch of His forgiving hand laid upon us in secret? Have we not cast ourselves in faith upon Him whom we see not, as one who leaps into the darkness, and found our Father's everlasting arms embracing, bearing us up?
(H. J. Van Dyke, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:
WEB: "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the sky and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them;