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What, then, does it mean? Does it mean that we are to have the same love toward God as we have toward a wife or a husband ?
Certainly not. But it means at least thisthe love which we should bear toward a Father. All, my friends, turns on this. Do you look on God as your Father, or do you not? God is your Father, remember, already. You cannot (as some people seem to think) make him your Father by believing that he is one; and you need not, thanks to his mercy. Neither can you make him not your Father by forgetting him. Be you wise or foolish, right or wrong, God is your Father in heaven; and you ought to feel towards him as towards a father, not with any sentimental, fanciful, fanatical affection : but with a reverent, solemn, and rational affection; such as that which the good old Catechism bids us have, when it tells us our duty toward God.
My duty towards God is to believe in him, to fear him, and to love him with all my heart, with all my mind, with all 'my soul, and with all my strength; to wor
ship him, to give him thanks, to put my whole trust in him, to call upon him, to honour his holy Name and his Word, and " to serve him truly all the days of my • life.
Now, I ask you—and what I ask you I ask myself—do we love the Lord our God thus ? And if not, why not?
I do not ask you to tell me. I am not going to tell you what is in my heart; and I do not ask you to tell me what is in yours. We are free Englishmen, who keep ourselves to ourselves, and think for ourselves, each man in the depths of his own heart; and who are the stronger and the wiser for not talking about our feelings to any man, priest or layman.
But ask yourselves, each of you-Do I love God? And if not, why not?
There are two reasons, I believe, which are, alas ! very common. For one of them there are great excuses; for the other, there is no excuse whatsoever.
In the first place, too many find it difficult to love God, because they have not been taught that God is loveable, and worthy of their love.
They have been taught dark and hard doctrines, which have made them afraid of God.
They have been taught—too many are taught still—not merely that God will punish the wicked, but that God will punish nine-tenths, or ninety-nine-hundredths of the human race. That he will send to endless torments not merely sinners who have rebelled against what they knew was right, and his command; who have stained themselves with crimes; who wilfully injured their fellow-creatures : but that he will do the same by little children, by innocent young girls, by honourable, respectable, moral men and women, because they are not what is called sensibly converted, or else what is called orthodox. They have been taught to look on God, not as a loving and merciful Father, but as a tyrant and a task-master, who watches to set down against them the slightest mishap or neglect; who is extreme to mark what is done amiss; who wills the death of a sinner. Often-strangest notion of all—they have been told that, though God intends to punish them, they must still love him, or they will be punished—as if such a notion, so far from drawing them to God, could do anything but drive them from him. And it is no wonder if persons who have been taught in their youth such notions concerning God, find it difficult to love him. Who can be frightened or threatened into loving any being? How can we love any being who does not seem to us kind, merciful, amiable, loving? Our love must be called out by God's love. If we are to love God, it must be because he has first loved us.
But he has first loved us, my friends. The dark and cruel notions about God—which are too common, and have been too common in all ages--are not what the world about us teaches, nor what Scripture teaches us either.
Look out on the world around you. What witness does it bear concerning the God who made it? Who made the sunshine, and the flowers, and singing birds, and little children, and all that causes the joy of this life? Let Christ himself speak, and his apostles. No one can say that their words are not true; that they were mistaken in their view of this earth, or of God who gave it to us that it might bear witness of him. What said our Lord to the poor folk of Galilee, of whom the Scribes and the Pharisees, in their pride, said, * This people, who knoweth not the law, is accursed.'—What said our Lord, very God of very God? He told them to look on the world around, and learn from it that they had in heaven not a tyrant, not a destroyer, but a Father; a Father in heaven who is perfect in this, that he causeth his sun to shine upon them, and is good to the unthankful and the evil.
What of him did St. Paul say ?-and that not to Christians, but to heathens—That God had not left himself without a witness even to the heathen who knew him not — and what sort of witness? The witness of his bounty and goodness. The simple but perpetual witness of the yearly harvest—In that 'he sends men rain and fruitful seasons, filling * their hearts with food and gladness.
This is St. Paul's witness. And what is St. James's ? He tells men of a Father of