Through Christ To God

1 Peter 1:20, 21.---[Christ] ' was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

There are a few who would deny that the breakdown of the world we once used to know has raised again up in a tremendous setting the question which every thoughtful mind will acknowledge is supreme over every other---the question of God. A clever cartoonist has represented our time as a young man with a mourning band on his arm, whose eyes are fixed upon a sign of interrogation. The disenchantment from everything ideal which has blackened the last few years is the natural mood of convalescence after a serious spiritual illness. But we cannot continue merely to be disillusioned. That is an attitude which is bound to give way to reviving hope and renewed ventures of the spirit, which must needs go upon the quest of the fundamentals or die. Was there ever a time, with living memory at least, when so many people of all types were genuinely eager to get light upon the fact and the meaning of God? Below the wistful uncertainties that produce in us the haunting sense of indirection which paralyzes effort today on almost every side of life, one can detect a constant movement of desire towards God. Amid the ruins of easy hopes and assured purposes there are multitudes who are lifting their eyes to heaven again and asking for God.

One does not need to be a deep or a trained thinker to see that it might matters supremely to every man how much or how little he believes about God. Infinitely more is at stake than the traditions of our childhood, or the future of the Church, or other religious denominations in which we have been brought up. What hangs in the balance is the whole meaning and purpose of life, and the sanctions of all things moral, as well as the account we are to give of man himself and the worth of his being both here and hereafter. No social or economic revolution could equal in the tragedy of its consequences the certain results to mankind of the destruction of its faith and hope in God. Everyone who knows anything of modern life knows that the welfare of industry and commerce depends upon certain conditions which business men describe in one word---confidence. By this they mean that they can carry on successfully only when they have the assurance that international and internal relations or stable. Otherwise things fluctuate so much that they cannot proceed upon any certain basis. The same thing is true on the incomparably higher plane of man's spiritual life and relationships. The world cannot really live when its spiritual exchange is disturbed by a fundamental uncertainty about God. The stability of civilization itself is founded upon its faith in God.

And so also is the subject stability of the single life. "work without hope drawls nectar through a sieve, and life without an object cannot live." That is what Jesus meant when He said that 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' The security of a man's spiritual capital and the value of his labors alike depend upon whether or not he knows where he stands about God. He may so organized and invest his live as to seem secure against all risk of unlimited liabilities; but in his heart of hearts he knows that he is like a financial concern which at any moment may crash, because demands which he cannot meet are made upon him. 'The hardened heart and the lie in the soul' may do a great deal to help him to forget it; but always, and at every turn, the question waits---What about God? Insecurity about the fundamentals in the spiritual market place spells endless trouble and, possibly, final bankruptcy to the soul.

Yet all the while there is nothing harder for the unaided mind than to be sure about God. No man who has lived much or thought much can easily take God for granted. To bid men trust God is only to leave unanswered the real question which is in their minds. What God? What is God like? What is His will? What, if any, is His purpose? There are those who, apart from the gospel, seem able answer such queries in some such way is this: The facts that God is and that God is Love are the only things that make sense of life. God cannot be a maniac or a tyrant, because man at his best is not that; and because there are reason and goodness in us there must be the same things in God also. Others go further still. They add to the witness of their own consciousness the testimony of the great cloud of witnesses, and strengthen the case for God by the authority of the experts of the life of faith, which is slowly yet steadily being confirmed by the revolt of science against a merely material and mechanical view of things. They feel themselves to be only humble scholars in a college whose professors see further than they can, and are fully assured of what they can only dimly begin to discern. The trouble is that such largely second-hand faith has a tendency to break down before the impact of the facts of life. And it is haunted by the suspicion that, after all, the nature of things is an unsolved mystery which has never really unveiled its heart. The character of God, and therefore His meaning for life, are still a dark background of life which answers only dimly to the questions that are so much its vital foreground, and against which those questions still stand out black and unrelieved.

Unless there is something that can carry us further than reliance upon our unaided intuitions or upon the authority of the Saints and masters of the spiritual life we shall never do more than "stretch lame hands of faith, and grope, and faintly trust the larger hope." It is the wide-spread feeling of this that gives the gospel of Christ its new and magnificent opportunity today. For, if Christianity does anything at all, it speaks with authority about the questions of God. Behind all the superficial variations of form and expression which it has assumed and still assumes for men, it has this distinctive and unique thing to give them---a real knowledge of God. The really universal thing which binds all Christians together and makes them truly one is their knowledge of God revealed in Christ Jesus. Nothing else in Christianity comes within measurable distance of that in vital importance and saving power. The Church stands or falls by its gospel of God. That called it into being, and that still feeds is life. And its claim to be able to heal the trouble of the world's life today is that it knows God and can bring them to God.

Such a world-embracing claim as that will at once stir inpatience, if not resentment, in the minds of those who have never taken the trouble to consider the basis upon which it rests. A great many people are inclined to regard their own perplexities as if they were all new, and entirely unlike any which others have felt before them. But, if we consider for one moment what the gospel really is and the way and which it came to birth, we must see at once that, unless it is palpable fiction, it does reveal God, and there is nothing essentially new about our difficulties at all. In soul and principal they are as old as the experience of man when first the faced the problem of the character of God over against the happenings, especially the tragic happenings, of life. No depths of darkness that any one of us has sounded are deeper than that into which Christ sank when He put to the final test on the Cross His invinsible faith in God. The Gospels, which lead us all on and to the burst of glory in which the question of God was answered when He raised up Christ from the dead, lead us there by a road which passes through the nethermost pit of life's denials and contradictions and defeats. As we read them we can see that the whole meaning of Christ life and teaching was unqualified trust in the absolute reality of the reign of the God whom He believed to be on the central throne of things. That faith, and His refusal to compromise it in any way, brought Him to the Cross and His awful end. And when he died it did seemed to those who loved and watched Him that the sun had set over Calvary upon a Godless world. But God answered Christ's challenge. The supreme issues have been put to the test, and the Father in whom Christ trusted responded when He raised Him up from the dead. That is the gospel---Christ putting to the proof the Father-love of God in an unwavering faith, and God answering Him and declaring Himself in the resurrection of His Son. That is the fountain and foundation of the one faith that overcometh the world, the faith which is ours, 'who by Christ do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead.' For that puts love upon the throne, and enables us to believe without reserve that we can dare to claim that, in spite of all its still unanswerable questions, as it has been boldly said, 'This is a Christ world.'

The one thing supremely worth doing is to face afresh the challenge of the Christian gospel of God in Jesus Christ. Get right about God! Get right with God! Begin at the beginning were all things for a man's life begins, and where, too, they all must end. If it be really true that God made us for fellowship with Himself, if around us and above us and within us He is the Father-heart which has come forth in time to make Himself known to us in his Son; if the very soul of this strange world---so confusing and complex in this surface appearance, and so painful and seemingly relentless in its impact upon our lives---is the Eternal Love that speaks in Jesus crucified and risen the life-giving word of assurance and peace; then why not break out of the prison-house, out into the open air of God's new world of love, and hope, and faith? The bars are broken: the doors stand open; Christ opened them for all men when He died and rose again. Nothing is too good to believe about a God who is like Jesus Christ, a God who has proved in Christ's resurrection that the inmost heart of things, the soul of the universe, is at one with Christ, and answers to Him, and in Him is victor over the uttermost power of evil to challenge the reign of love.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha