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Drummond thinks we can; but I believe that Henry Drummond does what the spiritual man always does when he looks for the kindness of God in the world without-he brings something to nature before he reads out of nature the goodness of the All-Father.
“That type of perfect in his mind
In nature can he nowhere find;
He sows himself on every wind." It is only when, as Dr. Dallinger, the great Wesleyan divine and man of science, says, we acknowledge that no man has seen nor can see God, not even His footsteps in nature as the God of love, and recognise that the only begotten Son hath declared Him, that we continue:
“He seems to hear a heavenly friend,
A labour working to an end." Do not, I pray you, mistake my meaning. It were a sad thing for us if, by a kind of illogical dichotomy, we could believe in a God of love in direct contrast to the witness of nature. No, the truth is that the key to the interpretation of nature is to be found in the Gospel You can call nature the garment of God, woven without seams throughout, when you realise that the highest is the interpretation of the whole, and that in Christ we have the great secret of the cosmosGod is love,
On the field of history we are not much better off. It is a saddening study to the man who goes into it without faith; yea, verily, it is little more than the records of the crimes and the faults of poor, errant human nature, as has often been pointed out. We need a co-ordinating principle somewhere, and I believe that no man has ever yet accomplished in the field of history aught worthy of the name who has not found, consciously or sub-consciously, that co-ordinating principle in a rule of right which somehow makes itself felt, and works itself out, and which is only another name for God. Can there be a right which does not issue in love? Our moral consciousness denies it. The God of right and the God of love must be one and the same, and to preach the right without the love, or the love without the right, is to shear your Gospel of all convincingness and power. Sometimes we preach a God whose nature, though we do not say so, is that of a doting amiability; and sometimes we are inclined to preach a God, though we do not say so, who is a God of rigid implacability. Neither is true; both contain a truth. The God of righteousness who is declared in history-and you cannot mistake Himmust also be the God of love, if we are to believe in a future for man—a glorious destiny for those who remain in the image of God. On the field of history we can read a plan Divine best of all when we look through the eyes of Jesus Christ. In our every-day experience, what else can we say? Can we take any other Guide and Master than Jesus Christ? I trow not. If I were a man of the world, pure and simpleand sometimes I think I am not much else—I mean that I would rather look out with the eyes of the man who has to fight the battle of life than I would play the ecclesiastic. If I were a man of the world, pure and simple, I would do what so many thousands of their company even external to the Churches are doing to-day, and without relation to preachers—I would examine the claims of Jesus Christ, and see if there were no hope and guidance for me there.
Mr. Moody once said, in his preaching, and in my hearing, that when he first began his wonderful work, not in England, but in America, he was inclined to make some distinction between the nature of the Father and the nature of the Son. I mean their moral nature-put metaphysics away. He had never formulated it to himself; we do not always formulate our creeds. But after feeling the sternness of the Father, as over against and contrasted with the winsomeness of the Son, he said it came to him like a new gospel that the Son reveals the heart of the universe, and that kindness is the solution of the mystery there. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” is a moral proposition rather than an intellectual. It should become part of the immediate spiritual experience of every man. When you have seen the heart of Jesus you have no more to learn about the heart of God: it will be the same as His to all eternity. On the witness of the Master, whose life-yea, even rather his teaching—is the declaration of this evangel, we would say:
“God is love: His mercy brightens
All the path by which we rove." If we can establish that declaration-and it is not the easiest thing in the world to do it—we can build an experience of optimism upon it, and say, with Sabatier: “When wearied by the world of pleasure or of toil I long to find my soul again and live a deeper life, I can accept no other God and Master than Jesus Christ, because in Him alone optimism is without frivolity and seriousness without despair." The doctrine of Divine love is one declared to spiritual experience. I sometimes wonder when, with our modern
methods, we shall take the spiritual man seriously, and examine him, and endeavour to understand the reason for his life. We go with hammer and chisel and microscope to examine rocks and fossils; why not ask ourselves the question which, in point of fact, some are beginning to ask, Why is a man good, and loving, and confident that goodness and love are making him? Why is it? The experience of the spiritual man is the best apologetic for the Gospel-far more so than the words of preachers, be they never so eloquent; and the doctrine of Divine love, though it seem to be in plain contrast with the facts of life, is witnessed, without faltering and without fail, in the experience of the spiritual man. He tells us that the love of God is no thing of weak amiability: it is a very stern thing, that it is discriminating in its incidence, that it will not spare its object, that it is the explanation of sorrow and struggle and pain, and that it is the end toward which these things point, and the triumph in which finally these things shall be destroyed. God hath not left Himself without a witness; and the spiritual man, living the life of the Cross, never flinches from the declaration that, in spite of the seeming, “Behind a frowning Providence,” there is a smiling face.
Long ago I remember a lady in this church telling me of her experience of one, a woman, very poor, even ignorant, who had had a hard, strenuous life, and who finally was dying without the hope of doing anything for her children, who made a somewhat remarkable declaration on her deathbed to her visitor. The visitor was trying to convince her, as I am trying to convince you, of the testimony of the spiritual man, that God is love. The poor woman answered by saying, “I can
believe all you declare about Jesus Christ, but I don't believe in God." You would scarcely think it possible that the declaration could have been made, but, you see, it was made by one who was not accustomed to think. She continued: “ If Christ were here, the real Christ of whom you speak, I could tell Him all my troubles; but I cannot tell them to God.” The demand of that rudimentary experience surely was for a gospel in which Christ should be the pledge and guarantee of the goodwill of God. There are many thousands who feel something like it who may not, cannot, explain why. Christ becomes their gateway into God: and it is not too much to say that there are more men and women believing in the goodness of God to-day-yea, in the very existence of God-because there is a Christ to preach, than through all other means put together. The experience of the spiritual man will bear the test of examination here.
There may be man here in utter despair about his life: he has lived so badly. There in another man close by him who would affirm that, though the whole world go crashing into ruin, still it is well, for "He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm ”—He by whom the very hairs of our head are all numbered. Man is a citizen of eternity, and the love of God is broader than the measure of man's mind.
Thou judgest us: Thy purity
Doth all our lusts condemn;
Is hot with wrath to them."
Some of you, in speaking about the love of God, forget that the love of God means the wrath of God. They