The Father's Love for Persons (1888)

"Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." - Luke 12:7 How ought we to live with our Creator - as strangers or as children? How are we to worship him - as a distant being or as near to us? What is his relation to us - that of a remote sovereign, who takes no immediate and special care of individuals, or that of a parent, who, whilst provident of his whole family, watches over every particular child? These are great questions and happily our religion answers them fully. However indistinct Nature's teachings may be upon these points - however insufficient unassisted reason may be to establish the truth of a minute and constant providence extended to each single creature - however strong may be the appearances of a general order of the universe, to which the interests of private individuals are sternly sacrificed, - still as Christians we are assured, that God in his government of the whole does not forget the parts, that he is the Father of each as well as of ALL intelligent beings. It is the perfection of wisdom - the distinction of an all-comprehensive mind - to embrace at once the concerns of a vast community of beings and the interest of every single member, to conjoin the enlarged views of a universal sovereign with the minute inspection and tender care of a father. And such is our God. He is the God of ALL and yet he is my God. At the same moment he pervades heaven and earth, taking charge of the austenance, progress, and growing happiness of the unbounded creation, and he is present with me, as intent upon my character, actions, wants, trials, joys, and hopes, as if I were the sole object of his love. This view of God we all have a deep interest in impressing upon our minds. We must strive to combine, in our conception of him, the thoughts of a particular and a universal Providence. One the one hand, we must not narrow his loving care, as if it were mindful of ourselves alone, nor think of him only as doing us good. For this would be to rob him of his infinitude and darken the splendor of his boundless beneficence. Such a view would make religion the nurse of selfishness, and convert our connection with the Supreme Being into one of self-interest. Never let us try to monopolize God. Never let us imagine the God exists only as ministering to our individual wants. Never let us for an instant forget his relation to the universe. Let us adore him for the streams of bounty, which flow unceasingly, from the fountains of his life, to all his countless creatures. But on the other hand, beware lest in thus enlarging your views of the infinite One you lose your hold of the correlative truth, - that though all beings of all worlds are his care, though his mind thus embraces the universe, he is yet as mindful of you, as if that universe were blotted out and you alone survived to receive the plenitude of his care. God's relation to you is not an exclusive one, but it is as close as if it were. Judge not the infinite mind by your own. Because you, frail men, when you extend your care over a city, a community, or a nation, overlook the concerns of individuals through incapacity of comprehending in one view the vast and the minute, the whole and its particles, do not thence imagine that the Infinite Spirit cannot be perpetually caring for you, because he cares for the immense community of spirits. Never conceive that your actions are overlooked and forgotten, because of the multiplicity of agents and beings who are to be guided and governed. Never fear that your wants are forgotten, because the boundless creation sends up a common cry to its common Father, and he has an infinite family for whom to provide. Never think that your characters are objects of little interest, because innumerable orders of beings of higher attainments and virtues attract the regards of this manifest king. Were you his only creature alive, he could not think of you more constantly and more tenderly, or be more displeased with your resistance to duty, or feel more joy in your fidelity to right, than he does now. The human mind, apt to measure God by itself, has always found a difficulty in reconciling the two views, which have just been stated. Through this propensity it fell into polytheism, or the worship of many gods. Wanting a deity, who would watch over their particular interests, and fearing that they would be overlooked by the Father of all, men invented inferior deities, - gods for each particular country and nation, - and still more household gods, divinities for each particular dwelling, that they may have some sort of superior power beneath which to shelter their weakness. Under Christianity even the same difficulty as been and still is felt. To this we must ascribe the exaltation of saints into divinities in the Catholic Church. And among the Protestants, not a few make the universal Father a partial deity and appropriate his blessings to their sect, as if fearing that they should lose a portion of his favor, by supposing him to be as gracious to all human beings as to themselves. I. But there is no inconsistency in at once believing in God's Particular Providence and in His Universal Providence. He may watch over All, and yet watch over Each, as if Each were All. There is a simple truth, which may help us to understand, that God does not intermit His attention to Individuals in consequence of His inspection of the Infinite Whole. It is this. The individual is a living part of this living whole, - vitally connected with it, - acting upon it and reacted upon by it, - receiving good and communicating good in return, in proportion to his growth and power. From this constitution of the Universe it follows, that the whole is preserved and perfected by the care of its parts. The General good is bound up in the Individual good. So that to superintend one is to superintend the other; and the neglect of either would be the neglect of both. What reason have I for considering myself overlooked, because God has such an immense family to provide for? I belong to this family. I am bound to it by vital bonds. I am always exerting an influence upon it. I can hardly perform an act that is confined in its consequences to myself. Others are affected by what I am, and say, and do. And these others have also their spheres of influence. So that a single act of mine may spread and spread in widening circles, through a nation or humanity. Through my vice I intensify the taint of vice throughout the Universe. Through my misery I make multitudes sad. On the other hand, every development of my virtue makes me an ampler blessing to my race. Every new truth that I gain makes me a brighter light to Humanity. I ought not then to imagine that God's interest in me is diminished, because His interest is extended to endless hosts of Spirits. On the contrary, God must be more interested in me on this very account, because I influence others as well as myself. I am a living member of the great Family of All Souls; and I cannot improve or suffer myself, without diffusing good or evil around me through an ever-enlarging sphere. My hearer, you are not to think of yourself as neglected, because God has an innumerable company of children to care for. One of the methods, by which He cares for these various children, is to make provision for your progress. The interests of others, as well as your own interests, require that the Universal Father should watch over your progress. For just so far as you are wise, disinterested, and happy, you will become a universal blessing. Be not disheartened then on looking round on the immense Creation, and thinking that you are but one amongst millions, for these millions have a living interest in each one. You as an individual cannot but spread good or evil indefinitely around you, and through succeeding generations. In these remarks we have seen, that from the intimate and vital connexion between the Individual and the Community of Spirits, God in taking care of each person is taking care of the whole, and that there is a perfect harmony between the General and the Particular superintendence of God. From the same vital connexion of beings I derive another encouraging view, leading to the same result.

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative