Images de page
PDF
ePub

rectoral government coincide; and the law itself becomes the expression of the Father's care for his entire “ offspring." The ceaseless antithesis in theological writings between law and love, is most un, happy. In human judicature, it is true, the two seem often opposed ; and that it is so, is a mark of imperfection. No confession of human weakness is more significant than the maxim, Summum jus, summa injuria. GOD is Love, and of love, accordingly, the Divine Law is, and must be, the expression. It is not only "righteous,” but “good." As every philosopher teaches that the pain which attends the violation of the laws of nature is a beneficent provision, enforcing that which serves the general happiness, so we may say that the penalties of sin are beneficent, and that the highest ends of justice are one with the highest aims of love.

Two methods adopted by God to enforce His moral laws, are in. stanced as unfatherly: the everlasting destruction of the impenitent, and the expiatory sacrifice of Christ. Now, in considering both we must reflect that a true fatherhood cares lovingly for the interests of the whole family. We must not allow ourselves to take our illustrations from paternal partiality or weakness. Our question is, not what a doting father, or an unwise father, a Jacob, an Eli, or a David might do; but, what is the supposable course of a PERFECT FATHER. We would write with reverence on such a topic; but might not such a father disinherit a child—nay, many children-for the very sake of the family? Are not the penalties annexed to sin the warnings of infinite love ? And if the love is infinite, wherefore may we not call it fatherly? I at any rate can preach no “terror of the Lord” which is not the darkness of the Father's frown upon those children who bave rebelled against Him.

Then, as to the great expiation. Are we told that it is “inconceivable” and “frightful” that the Father of all should so have “ loved the world” as to give “ His only begotten Son, that whoso. ever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life ? " If the assertion on which I am commenting does not mean this, what does it mean? Whatever the Atonement was, it was an expression of the love of God--the love of God to man. “But not of his fatherly love," it will be replied. I ask, again, wherefore the distinction ? There are two aspects, no doubt, in which the Divine conduct must be viewed : first, as requiring, and secondly, as providing the sacrifice. God's righteous government required it, as the condition of human deliverance; but even here we may ask, is it quite certain that, had God been simply a moral governor, He could have accepted the substitution ? If ever the analogy of the magistrate fails, it fails just here, where it is so often pressed. For where in earthly judicature would one man, however willing, be permitted to bear the penalty of another's crime? Where would a guilty man be pardoned on condition of the punishment of the innocent ?' The transaction is unparalleled--because the righteousness itself of the Eternal Ruler is something beyond the justice of an infinite magistrate. We would speak with caution and trembling here ; but it is in the combination of the fatherly with the rectoral character of God that we seem to discern the possibility of His accepting the great sacrifice. Be this, however, as it may, the requisition was not arbitrary. We have never regarded it as originating in the will of God. The principles of rectitude are absolute, eternal. No fatherly love could set them aside. These principles preclude forgiveness without some fitting homage to the majesty of law. The Eternal Father must be just in forgiving His own sinful children. Surely, the vindication of His justice cannot prove Him not to be a father still !

Then, if He were Moral Governor alone, what moved Him to provide the great salvation ? “ God so loved the world, that He gare His only begotten Son." He surrendered the whole representation is one of sacrifice on His own part-the object most dear to Himself. “He spared not His own Son," out of love— not to His own moral attributes, nor to the majesty of righteousness, nor to any of those stern legal abstractions which theologians love to deify--but to the world. I ask, was not this fatherly love? If not, by what yet loftier, sweeter name shall it be described ? Love in its utmost tenderness-love consenting to the supreme sacrifice on behalf of the lostlove that “ will have all men to be saved”---if this is not paternal, it is more! The "attitude of a moral governor!” What, then, mean the words, "For Christ we are ambassadors, as though God did beseech by us; we pray, on Christ's behalf, be ye reconciled 10 God ?”

We may return then to the texts generally believed to teach the universal Fatherhood of God. If, as I think I have shown, there is nothing in the evangelical system to set aside their obvious meaningif, indeed, that meaning harmonizes with the great revelation of “ God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” – little more is needed by way of comment or exposition. “We are His offspring.” Did the Apostle Paul adopt the words of the heathen poet without a thought of their theological application ? But let us turn from the servant to the Master. It was “ to the multitudes" that He spoke, on the Mount of Beatitudes; and, without a hint of restriction, He taught them all to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven.” The multitudes bad certainly not yet learned the mystery of reconciliation, nor had they become united to their Lord by living faith-they “were astonished at his doctrine;" and yet He had said to them all, “ If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father, which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask Him ? ” And, again, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect." *

Several verses are quoted in the Sermon to which reference has been made, in which Christ's words of “the Father” may be interpreted by substituting “My Father," "His Father." But how are we to understand our Lord's saying to the Samaritan woman, "The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father?” † Is the omission of the pronoun here also “a mere example of euphony," # or does the name contain the very substance of Christ's glorious revelation to man ?

• Matth. vii. 9-11, v. 48, compare v. 16, vi. 1, 4, 6, 8, 14, 15, 17, 18, 26, 31, 32.

† John iv. 21, see 23. CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR, P. 644. $ “By calling God the Father, our Lord seems indirectly to contrast

We may glance also at the Parable of "the Prodigal Son.” Expound it as we may, whether of individuals or of classes, the cry,“ I will arise and go to my Father” is the cry of a repentant sinner. He acknowledges the relationship, of which he has violated the duties and outraged the tenderness. " Yet He is my Father, notwithstanding; and to Him I will return!” On the theory we are considering, surely the repenting one should have said, “I will arise and go to my Moral Governor, and seek that he may become my Father !"* Why even the Pharisaic elder brother acknowleged the relationshipthis thy son"_and the preacher of the Gospel can hardly be wrong in turning the Prodigal's resolve into a universal exhortation, saying to all the sinful and the lost, “ Arise and go unto your Father !

When we are told, by way of practical inferences, from the doctrine here criticised, that "it teaches us how very serious are our earliest transactions with God. If we had to regard Him as a Father, and exclusively as a Father, we might form slender notions of the criminality of our disobedience, or of the gravity of His displeasure," it may surely be replied that the very contrary to this appears to be the truth, There is no delineation of deeper ingratitude than in the Divine appeal," I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” "If I be a Father, where is mine honour ?" To apply an apostolic argument, we may say,-if they who trangress the statutes of the Infinite Ruler are condemned, of how much sorer punishment shall they be worthy who do despite unto the Father's love! Never can the universal Fatherhood of God be taken as a warrant for carelessness in sin; while to the repenting it affords a certain hope. “The Eternal Judge,” we are told, is “not eager to condemn." Is that all? Why, He has himself come near, and by His only-begotten Son He entreats the erring children of men to turn to Him, that thus they may learn the secret of His love, and, because they are sons, may be brought by His Spirit to cry ABBA, FATHER!

I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,

MATHETES.

Him with the fathers whom the woman had mentioned as worshipping in Mount Gerizim ; and to convey this instruction, that God will be a common Father to all, so that He will be generally worshipped without distinction of places or nations.”—Calvin in loc.

We cannot forbear asking our readers, where practicable, to refer to Dr. Candlish's criticism, in his “Cunningham Lectures," on this Parable. His exposition of it is simply amazing. † CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR. p. 651.

This phrase seems a qualification, and yet it is manifestly out of place. No one regards God exclusively as a Father, i.e., so as to ignore His rectoral and judicial character, or to deny His moral government. On the contrary, while some say, with Mr. Baldwin Brown, that the paternal relations of God include the governmental, others prefer to say, with Dr. Alexander and Professor Crawford, that the two classes of relations co-exist. It is the doctrine of Mr. Hinton's sermon that is “ exclusive;" denying the Fatherhood altogether, except in the lower sense intimated, on pp. 642, 3.

EDITORIAL NOTICE. For 16 years the CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR has rendered no inconsiderable service to the cause of religious freedom, and has materially assisted in the formation of healthy opinion, and the growth of catholic sentiment. The changes, howerer, which these years have wrought seem to call for a change in the form and method of the Magazine. The increased prominence which, owing to the settlement of the Reform Bill, must be given to ecclesiastical topics, the great literary activity shown by the promoters of the “ Catholic Revival," and the desire so often and so generally expressed for an organ which should deal freely, yet reverently, with the biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical questions which are continually presenting themselves, are some of the many considerations which have led the proprietors of the Magazine to decide that

ON THE 1st OF JANUARY NEXT
THE CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR

SHALL BE SUCCEEDED BY

The Free Churchman,

To be issued Monthly, at One Shilling. The FREE CHURCHMAN will be an extension in size and design of the existing Magazine.

The FREE CHURCHMAN will not be the organ of any party, and will be unfettered by sectarian restrictions. It will aim at liberty in and for the Church of Christ.

The FREE CHURCHMAN will therefore seek the emancipation of religion from all Legislative interference and State-Patronage, from the assumptions of Priestcraft which so many are now labouring to revive, from traditions which are not true, and from a spirit which is unchristian.

The FREE CHURCHMAN, while having a distinct Evangelical Creed, will afford opportunity for the discussion in its pages of controverted points in theology and exegesis.

The FREE CHURCHMAN will comment upon the principal events of the day in a religious spirit, and report upon them in a manner respectful to all opinions ; but judging them by a strictly Christian standard. In the treatment of social and national questions it will be pledged to a thoroughly Liberal policy.

The FREE CHURCHMAN will not attempt to compete with the secular Mag. azines of the day in meeting the demand for light and entertaining literature. Books, indeed, selected from every department of literature will be reviewed in its pages, but its conductors have a distinct and earnest purpose, from which they wiil not be tempted to turn aside to cater for the mere amusement of their readers. They write for men and women who are alive to the great importance of the movements in Church and State, and the conflicts of opinion which are going on around them, and they must look for success to the hearty support of those who are in harmony with the principles and aims of the Free Churches of Great Britain, and in sympathy with the spirit of progress and independence characteristic of the times.

*** The Editors trust that the friends who have so steadily supported the CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR, will now heartily assist them in launching the FREE CHURCHMAN. The writers, whose contributions have constituted the chief value of the CHRISTIAN SPEETATOR, will take their wonted place in the new Magazine, and other well-known gentlemen have promised their cooperation. Those, therefore, who have approved the views and spirit of the CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR, may hope to derive augmented satisfaction from the more numerous pages of the FREE CHURCHMAN.

« PrécédentContinuer »