But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and eternal King. The earth quakes at His wrath, and the nations cannot endure His indignation."
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS JEHOVAH IN UNIQUE.
1. In idea. It is a wondrous conception - a being so great, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. As a conception it stands alone, commands respect, and invites reverent investigation. Such goodness with such power and wisdom!
2. In pretensions.
(1) He claims our sole worship;
(2) our highest and holiest service is his by right, and is unworthy of him;
(3) our welfare and destiny are in his hands.
3. In works. There is nothing he has claimed to be which he has not made good in his works - creation, providence, grace.
II. THIS CONCEPTION OF GOD AS UNIQUE HARMONIZES WITH THE INSTINCTS OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT, AND THE TEACHINGS OF HISTORY AND NATURE. It has cast its spell over the mightiest intellects, and commanded the homage of the purest and best of men. In the worship of him whom it represents the highest longings are satisfied, and the most characteristically human sympathies and principles encouraged. The unity of nature; the mental principle that traces everything to a great First Cause; the manner in which the system of religion of which he is center and dominating principle explains this, and harmonizes the life of man with his surroundings; - are all indications that point to the same conclusion. - M.
er: — God never did, and never will receive the homage of a divided heart. Alexander, when Darius proposed that the two great monarchs should divide the world, replied that there was only room for one sun in the heavens. What his ambition affirmed that God declareth from the necessity of the case. Since one God fills all things, there is no room for another.
He is the living God, and an everlasting King.
1. One of the most observable and least questionable principles, drawn from our observation of man and nature, is, that the person, the conscious being, is the chief thing, for the sake of which all else is, and subservient to which all principles operate. The person, the conscious, intelligent, active, enjoying, suffering being, is foremost in importance and honour; principles and laws operate for its support, guidance, and well-being, and therefore are secondary. Some of these principles and laws have their origin in the relations which exist amongst intelligent, moral agents; most of them come into action in consequence of the previous existence of those relations. If there were no such agents, there either would be no such principles, or they would have no operation. Thus, for example, veracity, justice, love, are sentiments or obligations which spring up from the relations subsisting between different beings, and can exist only where there are persons. We may say, indeed, that they exist abstractly, in the nature of things; but, if there be no beings to recognise them, no agents to conform to or violate them, they would be as if they were not. They are qualities of being, and, like all qualities, have no actual existence independent of the substances in which they inhere. They have relation to acts, — voluntary acts of truth, justice, goodness; and acts belong to persons. If there existed no persons in the universe, but only things, there could be neither the act nor the sentiment of justice, goodness, truth; these are qualities of persons, not of things; of actions, not of substances. Suppose the Deity to exist alone in the universe which He has made. Then, from the conscious enjoyment of His own perfections, and the exercise of His power in the physical creation, He must dwell in bliss; but, as He has no relations to other conscious existences, He cannot exercise justice, or truth, or love; they lie in the infinite bosom as if they were not; they have only a contingent existence. Or make another supposition. Upon the newly created earth one man is placed alone. He knows no other conscious existence but himself. What are truth, justice, charity to him? They are nothing to him. He cannot have ideas of them. They are sentiments that belong to certain relations between beings, which relations he does not stand in, and knows nothing of. To him, therefore, they do not exist. Now, send him companions, and the relations begin, which give those sentiments birth and make their expression possible. He is in society; and those principles, which make the strength and order of society, immediately come into action. The necessities of conscious being call them forth. Thus what is chiefest in the universe is conscious, active mind; abstract principles are but the laws of its various relations. This may be illustrated, if necessary, from the analogies of the physical universe. Which is chief, the law of gravitation, or the universe which it sustains? The one is but means, the other is end; and the end is always greater than the means. If you say, No; gravitation is the superior, because it is the universal power of God; then I reply, "You thereby assent to the superiority of the person over the principle; for, as His power, it is His servant; He controls and directs it." But if you take the other ground, and speak of gravitation as a power independent of any being, then you cannot deny that it exists and is active for the sage of the systems and their inhabitants; operating for their sake, it is their servant and inferior; without them, it would be inert and non-existent. Thus the analogy of the physical universe corroborates the position. If there were no material masses, there could be no gravitation; if there were no persons there could be no truth, or justice, or love. There is another way of considering this point. What is it that, in the whole history and progress of man, has proved most interesting to man? What has been the favourite study, the chief subject of contemplation and care? Has it not been men, persons? Have not their character, fortunes, words, deeds, been the chief themes of thought, of conversation, of letters, of arts? Is it not the interest which the soul takes in persons that is the foundation of society, of its activity, its inventions, its advancement in civilisation, its institutions, its laws? Thus the doctrine which denies personality to God is in opposition to the general economy of nature, which sets peculiar honour on persons. In all the other relations of its being, the soul is concerned with nothing so much. Why should it be less so in its highest relation?
2. It also amounts to a virtual denial of God. Indeed, this is the only sense in which it seems possible to make that denial. No one thinks of denying the existence of principles and laws. Gravitation, order, cause and effect, truth, benevolence, — no one denies that these exist; and, if these constitute the Deity, He has not been, and cannot be, denied. The only denial possible is by this exclusion of a personal existence. There can be no atheism but this; and this is atheism. If the material universe rests on the laws of attraction, affinity, heat, motion, still all of them together are no Deity; if the moral universe is founded on the principles of righteousness, truth, love, neither are these the Deity. There must be some Being to put in action these principles, to exercise these attributes. There is a personal God, or there is none.
3. Further, to exclude personality from the idea of God, is, in effect, to destroy the object of worship, and thus to annihilate that essential duty of religion. The sentiment of reverence may, undoubtedly, be felt for a principle, for a code of laws, for an institution of government. But worship, which is the expression of that sentiment, is applicable only to a conscious being, as all the language and customs of men signify. It is praise, thanks, honour, and petition, addressed to one who can hear and reply. If there be no such one, — if the government of the world be at the disposal of unconscious power and self-executing law, — then there can be no such thing as worship. Let this be seriously considered. What a desolation is wrought in society, and in the soul, when the foundation of worship is thus taken away! It is the suppression of a chief instinct; it is the overthrow of a system which has always made an inseparable part of the social order, and in which human character and happiness are intimately concerned. The relation of man, in his weakness and wants, to a kindred spirit infinitely ready to aid him, of the insufficient child of earth to a watchful Father in heaven, is destroyed. There remains no mind, higher than my own, which is knowing to my desires; there is no Parent above, to whom my affections can rise and find peace. I am left to myself, and to men as weak as myself. We must not consent to the injustice which is thus done to the affections. What an instinct is in them, and how they yearn for something to love and trust, is taught us in all the religious history of the race.
4. In the next place, this notion removes the sense of responsibility, and so puts in jeopardy the virtue of man, as we have just seen that it trifles with his happiness. The idea of responsibility implies someone to whom we are responsible, and who has a right to treat us according to our fidelity. We, indeed, sometimes use the word with a little different application; we say that a man is responsible to his country, to posterity, to the cause of truth; but this is plainly employing the word in a secondary sense; it is not the original, literal signification. We hear it said, also, that a man is responsible to his own conscience; and this is sometimes spoken of as the most solemn responsibility. In one point of view, justly; since it is responsibility to that person, whose disapprobation is nearest to us, and whose awards are of the highest consequence to our peace. But why is it terrible? Because it is thought to represent and foreshadow the decisions of the higher tribunal of God. It is the thought of the living Lawgiver and Judge which affects men, — of one whose displeasure they can dread, whose good opinion they can value, whose favour they perceive to be life. And herein is perceived the wisdom of the Gospel of Christ, herein is found its efficacy, — that, casting aside all such abstractions, it appeals wholly to the relations of conscious beings, and subdues, and reforms, and blesses, by drawing the human soul to the soul of its Saviour and its God.
5. If, now, we pass to the declarations of the Divine Word, we find that the doctrine we are opposing stands in direct contradiction to the whole language and teaching of the Old and the New Testaments. Those volumes speak of God, uniformly and distinctly, as possessed of personal attributes. They so describe His perfections and His government, they so recite His words and His acts, they so assign to Him the relations and titles of the Creator, King, Lawgiver, Father. Until language changes its meaning, and all description is falsified, the doctrine of the Divine impersonality is a direct contradiction of the doctrine of revelation.
6. Further still, it destroys the possibility of a revelation, in any intelligible sense of the word. A revelation is a message, or a direct communication, from the infinite mind to the human mind. But, in order to this, there is required a conscious and individual action on the part of the communicator; and this implies personality. So that this doctrine virtually accuses the Scriptures of imposture, since they purport to contain a revelation from God, which, in the nature of things, is impossible. Nay, let us see the worst of it; — it accuses the apostles of Christ. and the blessed Saviour Himself, of deliberate fraud and imposition.
(H. Ware, D. D.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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