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move, and have our being," than if it were the heart of one of those blots upon our race, in which all the family charities appear to have been extinguished, or never to have grown. But, then, do you not further perceive how thoroughly self-condemned we must all of us stand, if we act faithfully the part of a child towards an earthly parent, but utterly fail to act that part towards “the Father of spirits ?" It will be demonstrable from our own actions that we are quite without excuse, as members of the universal family; we shall be put to shame by our very excellence as members of individual families. God may go, as it were, into our very households, and there, not by the blemishes which he finds, but by the beauties—not by the stormy passions which too often agitate its inmates, but by those lovely affections which give sacredness to our firesides, by the respect which parents feel and expect as their due, by the meek submissiveness of children, by their devoted attention to those who gave them life, by their obedience to their wishes, by their regard to their feelings, may he proceed to make good his charges against us, if it shall be found that having drawn from him our being, been sustained by his bounty and protected by his power, we have yielded him no homage and given him no love. Children ! listen ye to this; parents ! listen ye to this ; children, who are never wanting in dutiful affection towards your parentsparents, who are never unmindful of what you have a right to look for from your children-children, who will do all in your power to soothe the declining years of a father or a mother, who feel it a privilege to pay back by labours of love the tenderness lavished on you from infancy upwards, who attach a sacredness to the every word, and the every wish of persons so beloved and revered-parents, who feel cut to the heart by the ingratitude of a child, who are conscious of being robbed of your incontrovertible rights, whenever & son or a daughter is deficient in attachment and respect-yes, children and parents, listen ye alike to this; ye are self-condemned, ye are swift witnesses against yourselves, if as members of the universal family ye fail to be what ye are as members of particular households ; and oh! ye must be speechless at the judgment, if the simple argument of our text should be worked out against you—if the Judge should say to you, “Ye had fathers of your flesh, and ye gave them reverence," and should follow this up by the thrilling and unanswerable question, “Why, then, were ye not in subjection to the Father of spirits, that ye might live?"
I think that you must all be alive to the force of the argument which we have laboured to illustrate. It is simply an argument from what you are in the domestic relations of life to what you might be in reference to God. It takes all the affectionate and beautiful intercourse of parents and children, and employs it in evidence of your inexcusableness, if you fail in what you owe to your heavenly Father. So that never can a child honour a father or mother, and never can a father or mother expect obedience and respect from a child, without recognizing the rights of God as a universal parent, and without making good a charge of wilful fraud, if those rights be withheld. And if, in place of confining the argument to parent and child, we had dwelt more on the word “subjection" in our text-a word which carries our thoughts to master and servant, ruler and subject, we should all see for ourselves that we should have reached a like result. The loyal man who is void of religion, why, he will be condemned by his loyalty; the obedient subject who is void of religion, why, he will be condemned by his obedience; the faithful servant who is void of religion will be condemned by his fidelity. Yes, within any well regulated household may sufficient evidence be gathered, that those who have not bowed to God's sceptre must be wholly without excuse when arraigned at God's bar. Masters, who know and exact what is due to them from servants—the respect, the attention, the obedience; servants, who render to masters what they are pledged to by their stations in the family, both will be witnesses against themselves, if not found at the last amongst those who have yielded themselves to God. The master who shows by what he requires from a servant that he is aware of the duties of a servant, shows also that he is aware of what he himself owes to God his master in heaven; the servant who by his trustworthiness, his diligence, his respectfulness, proves himself acquainted with what is due to a master. Why, he proves himself also acquainted with what is due from him to God, whose servant he is in a far higher sense, than he is that of any fellow-creature. And thus may the master and servant both be condemned, not by their ignorance, but by their knowledgenot by their wrong practice, but by their right; not by the neglect of relative duties, but by the discharge ; and when God hath once made his appeal to the fact, “Ye had fathers of your flesh to whom ye gave reverence.” Oh! every man, in every position of life, the master and the servant, the ruler and the ruled, the scholar and the teacher, all will be deprived of any appeal against the sentences of the judgment, if God shall but put the emphatic and overwhelming question, “Why, then, were ye not in subjectior to the Father of spirits that ye might live?"
I do not know whether you have been accustomed to follow for yourselves such trains of thought as the words of our text have thus led us to open ; but, we own that we regard the subject which has been under discussion as one of no common importance and interest, presenting, as it does, all that is amiable and admirable in domestic life as fraught with testimony to be delivered at the great day of assize. You will observe, that we have had to go much beyond what is commonly advanced in regard to the virtues and excellencies of unconverted men. Not content with denying to those virtues and excellencies any justifying power, as if a man would be saved merely because he was amiable, and benevolent, and trustworthy, and dutiful, we have had to ascribe to them a condemning power. This has been the peculiarity of our present subject, and we should like to gain for it a thorough hold upon your minds. Is there the merchant amongst you of unimpeachable rectitude, who would sooner die than be guilty of a fraud? Why, that man's ledger is one of the books that shall be opened at the judgment; the hatred of everything base which it displays will be a witness against him if he have robbed God of his due. Is there the tradesman who would abhor the over-reaching a customer, and whom nothing could persuade to use the false weight and balance? Why, that man's shop will be referred to hereafter; it will prove him rigidly conscientious towards his fellow-men, and therefore self-condemned if he have defrauded his God. Or, is there a patriot, who with a fine love of liberty, would do and dare nobly to uphold the free institutions of his country? That man’s generous ardour will be quoted hereafter; could he be indignant against all lesser tyranny, and yet be excusable in making no struggle against the tyranny of sin ? Is there the son or the daughter amongst you who has shown reverence to parents ? That man or that woman will have nothing to plead when God shall affirm himself to be a Father, but a Father neglected by his children. Or, are there servants amongst you, who answer the apostle's description—"Obedient to their own masters, not answering again, not purloining, but showing all good fidelity?" Their unblemished characters will rise against them at the judgment; so true to their employers, what shall be said for them if false to their Maker: Ah! it may sound strangely, but nevertheless we may confidently assert, that virtues, the want of which must exclude us from heaven, may themselves doom us to a lower place in hell. Let there be no mistake in the matter; let it not be thought that because the social virtues may help at last to condemn us, therefore they are of no worth, and of no avail whatever. It is not because we gave reverence to the fathers of our flesh that we shall be condemned hereafter; it is not because the servant has been in subjection to his master that he will perish at the judgment. No, no, rather if the son or the daughter have not given reverence to the parent there shall be a stern condemnation ; if the servant have not been subject to his master, he shall on that very account be sentenced to the woe of the lost. God will not dispense with a rigid attention to all the relative duties; but our point is, that the child by honouring the father, the servant by obeying the master, gives evidence of a sense of what is due to those who stand to him in certain relations, and of a readiness to yield that due, and therefore proves that it can only be through wilful negligence or proud defiance, that he withholds the due from God the Father who made him, and the Master who re. deemed him.
See, therefore, how ye stand, and resolve in the strength of the living God to act as the position demands. Ye cannot be without the social virtues, and yet be approved of God-for true faith will produce them where it does not find them, and promote them where it does. It were nothing but a contradiction in terms to speak of a man as a genuine Christian, ready to stand at the judgment-seat of God, who did not honour his father and mother, or who was not faithful in his stewardship, or who used the false balance, or who did not submit to lawful authority. But then, observe and remember, on the other hand ye cannot have, ye cannot exercise these social virtues, and not be self-condemned, if you have not also godliness; they are confessions of what God has a right to expect at your hands, and therefore what can they be but witnesses against you, what but millstones round your neck, if what God has right to expect you fail to render ?
THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD.
REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
"Our Father which art in heaven.”—Matt. vi. I. I THINK there is room for very great doubt, whether our Saviour intended the prayer, of which our text forms a part, to be used in the manner in which it is commonly employed among professing Christians. It is the custom of many persons to repeat it as their morning prayer, and they think that when they have repeated these sacred words they have done enough. I believe that this prayer was never intended for universal use. Jesus Christ taught it not to all men, but to his disciples, and it is a prayer adapted only to those who are the possessors of grace, and are truly converted. In the lips of an ungodly man it is entirely out of place. Doth not one say, “ Ye are of your father the devil, for his works ye do?” Why, then, should ye mock God by saying, “Our Father which art in heaven.” For how can he be your Father? Have ye two Fathers? And if he be a Father, where is his honour? Where is his love? You neither honour nor love him, and yet you presumptuously and blasphemously approach him, and say, “ Our Father," when your heart is attached still to sin, and your life is opposed to his law, and you therefore prove yourself to be an heir of wrath, and not a ehild of grace! Oh! I beseech you, leave off sacrilegiously employing these sacred words; and until you can in sincerity and truth say, “Our Father which art in heaven,” and in your lives seek to honour his boly name, do not offer to him the language of the hypocrite, which is an abomination to him.
I very much question also, whether this prayer was intended to be used by Christ's own disciples as a constant form of prayer. It seems to me that Christ gave it as a model, whereby we are to fashion all our prayers, and I think we may use it to edification, and with great sincerity and earnestness, at certain times and seasons. I have seen an architect form the model of a building he intends to erect of plaster or wood; but I never had an idea that it was intended for me to live in. I have seen an artist trace on a piece of brown paper, perhaps, a design which he intended afterwards to work out on more costly stuff; but I never imagined the design to be the thing itself. This prayer of Christ is a great chart, as it were: but I cannot cross the sea on a chart. It is a map; but a man is not a traveller because he puts his fingers across the map. And so a man may use this form of prayer, and yet be a total stranger to the great design of Christ in teaching it to his disciples. I feel that I cannot use this prayer to the omission of others. Great as it is, it does not express all I desire to say to my Father which is in heaven.
There are many sins which I must confess separately and distinctly; and the various other petitions which this prayer contains require, I feel, to be expanded, when I come before God in private; and I must pour out my heart in the language which his Spirit gives me; and more than that, I must trust in the Spirit to speak the unutterable groanings of my spirit, when my lips cannot actually express all the emotions of my heart. Let none despise this prayer; it is matchless, and if we must have forms of prayer, let us have this first, foremost, and chief; but let none think that Christ would tie his disciples to the constant and only use of this. Let us rather draw near to the throne of the heavenly grace with boldness, as children coming to a father, and let us tell forth our wants and our sorrows in the language which the Holy Spirit teacheth us.
And now, coming to the text, there are several things we shall have to notice here. And first, I shall dwell for a few minutes upon the double relationship mentioned: "Our Father which art in heaven.” There is sonship —"Father;" there is brotherhood, for it says, “ Our Father;" and if he be the common father of us, then we must be brothers; for there are two relationships, sonship and brotherhood. In the next place, I shall utter a few words upon the spirit which is necessary to help us before we are able to utter this—" The spirit of adoption,” whereby we can cry, “ Our Father which art in heaven." And then, thirdly, I shall conclude with the double argument of the text, for it is really an argument upon which the rest of the prayer is based. Our Father which art in heaven,” is, as it were, a strong argument used before supplication itself is presented.
I. First, THE DOUBLE RELATIONSHIP IMPLIED IN THE PEXT.
We take the first one. Here is sonship—"Our Father which art in heaven." How are we to understand this, and in what sense are we the sons and daughters of God? Some say that the Fatherhood of God is universal, and that every man, from the fact of his being created by God, is necessarily God's son, and that therefore every man has a right to approach the throne of God, and say, “Our Father which art in heaven.” To that must demur. I believe that in this prayer we are to come before God, looking upon him not as our Father through creation, but as our Father through adoption and the new birth. I will very briefly state my reasons for this.
I have never been able to see that creation necessarily implies fatherhood. I believe God has made many things that are not his children. Hath he not made the heavens and the earth, the sea and the fulness thereof? and are they his children? You say these are not rational and intelligent beings; but he made the angels, who stand in an eminently high and holy position, are they his children? “ Unto which of the angels said he at any time, thou art my son?” I do not find, as a rule, that angels are called the children of God; and I must demur to the idea that mere creation brings God necessarily into the relationship of a Father. Doth not the potter make vessels of clay? But is the potter the father of the vase, or of the bottle? No, beloved, it needs something beyond creation to constitute the relationship, and those who can say, “ Our Father which art in heaven," are something more than God's creatures: they have been adopted into his family. He has taken them out of the old black family in which they were born; he has washed them, and cleansed them, and given them a new name and a new spirit, and made them “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;" and all this of his own free, sovereign, unmerited, distinguishing grace.
And having adopted them to be his children, he has in the next place, regenerated them by the Spirit of the living God. He has “begotten them again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," and no man hath a right to claim God as his Father, unless he feeleth in his soul, and believeth, solemoly, through the faith of God's election, that he has been adopted into the