The Need for Proof That God Does Love

The Need for Proof That God Does Love

Editor’s note: And so, dear brethren, let us learn the path by which we can pass into that blessed community of those on whom the fullness and sweetness and tenderers tenderness of the Father’s heart will fall.

God commendeth His love towards us, in that, whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us — Romans 5:8

 

GOD COMMENDETH HIS LOVE. That is true and beautiful, but that is not all that the apostle means. We “commend” persons and things when we speak of them with praise and confidence. If that were the meaning of my text, it would represent the death of Christ as setting forth, in a manner to win our hearts, the greatness, the excellence, the transcendency, of God’s love. But there is more than that in the words. The expression here employed strictly means “to set two things side by side,” and it has two meanings in the New Testament, both derived from that original signification. It sometimes means to set two persons side by side, in the way of introducing and recommending the one to the other. It sometimes means to set two things side by side, in the way of confirming or proving the one by the other. It is used in the latter sense here. God not merely “commends,” but “proves,” His love by Christ’s death. It is the one evidence which makes that often-doubted fact certain. Through it alone is it possible to hold the conviction that, in spite of all that seems to contradict the belief, God is Love. And so I wish to take the words in this sermon.

The Need for Proof That God Does Love

To hear some men speak, you would suppose that one of the simplest, clearest, and most indisputable of all convictions was the love of God. People are found in plenty who reject the distinctive teaching of Christianity because they say that the sterner aspects of the evangelical faith seem to them to limit, or to contradict, the great fundamental truth of all religion, as they take it, that God is Love. My friends, such people are kicking away the ladder by which they climbed. I venture to say that instead of the love of God being a plain, self-evident axiom, there needs very B evidence to give it a secure lodging-place amongst our settled beliefs.

Do the world’s religions bear out the contention that it is so easy and natural for a man to believe in a loving God? I think not. Comparative mythology has taught a great many lessons, and amongst others this, that, apart from the direct or indirect influences of Christianity, there is no creed to be found in which the belief in a God of love and in the love of God is unfalteringly proclaimed, to say nothing of being set as the very climax of the whole revelation. If this were the place, one could pass in review men’s thoughts about God and ask you to look at all that assemblage of beings before whom mankind has bowed down. What would you find? Gods cruel, gods careless, gods capricious, gods lustful, gods mighty, gods mysterious, gods pitying-with a contempt mingled with the pity-their sorrows and follies of mankind. But in all the pantheons there is not a loving god.

Before Jesus Christ there was no such thought, or if it were there at all, it was there as a faint hope, a germ overlaid by other conceptions. Independent of Jesus Christ’s influence, there is no such thought now.

Where you find the death of Christ as the proof rejected and the conviction retained, as is often the case, you have only a sign that “the river of the water of life” has percolated to the roots of many a tree that grows far from its banks. It is Christ who has brought the fire of this conviction, in the broken reed of His dying flesh, and lodged it in the heart of humanity. So I say the love of God, as is proved by men’s thoughts about Him, surely needs to be established on a basis of unmistakable evidence.

I add that all other evidences are insufficient. Do you appeal, in the fashion of Paley and the natural theologians, to the evidence of God in creation? Ah! you have invoked a very ambiguous oracle that seems to speak with two voices. I say nothing about the modification that argument has necessarily assumed if the theory of evolution is accepted. I do not think it is destroyed, but it is profoundly modified. For if God put into matter the promise and the potency of all these variations, He must lie back of the process, and be conceived of as forecasting, if not guiding, the evolution ‘ which ends in development. So the argument has only changed in its form and is unaffected in its substance.

But, putting aside all that, you speak of the goodness of God around us. What about storms, earthquakes, disasters, contrivances of producing pain, the law of destruction by which the creatures live by the slaying of one another-what about all these things? “Nature, red in tooth and claw with rapine, shrieks against the creed,” that God is Love. And if we have nothing but the evidence of nature, it seems to me that there are two voices speaking there: One says, “There is a good God;” the other says, “Either His power is limited, or His goodness is partial.”

The same ambiguous issue comes from the evidence of human life. Ali! brethren, we have only to look into our own lives and to look round upon the awful sights that fill the world to make the robustest faith in the goodness and love of God stagger, unless it can stay itself against the upright stem of the cross of Christ. Sentimentalists may talk, but the grim fact of human suffering, of wretched, hopeless lives, rises up to say that there is no evidence broad and deep and solid enough, outside of Christianity, to make it absolutely certain that God is Love.

There is another thing that makes necessary some irrefutable proof far firmer than any of these that I have been referring to. That is, that conscience rises up and protests, when it is awake, against such a notion, apart from the cross. Everybody who honestly takes stock of himself and conceives of God in any measure aright must feel that sin has come in to disturb all the relations between God and man. And when once a man comes to say, “I feel that I am a sinful man, and that God is a righteous God; how can I expect that His love will distill in blessings upon my head?” there is only one answer-“Whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

So, for all these reasons I venture to lay it down as a principle, in spite of modem teaching of another sort, that the love of God is not a self-evident axiom, but needs to be proved.

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