The Unity of god

Isa. 43:10.---' Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.' Isa. 45:5.---' I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.'

The belief in God, the sense of God, is intuitive, instinctive, universal. Man has never to argue himself into belief in the existence of God; he has only to argue himself into a denial of His existence. As soon as he wakes to conscious life, man finds himself in the presence of things, events, happenings which make him feel that there is outside of himself some mighty Other, some Power vastly stronger and greater than himself. His conceptions of this Power not himself may, and do, vary vastly in dignity and purity. But the worship by the savage of his fetish is as valid a witness to the reality of the instinct for God as our Christian worship. The Bible advances no proof for the existence of God. It takes it for granted.

But it is one thing to be sure that there is a God; it is another and a different thing to know what God is like. There has been a long history of the race's apprehension of the nature of God. Behind our present-day knowledge of God there lie ages of searching and striving, of guessing and blind groping after Him. If we live today in the broad light of noon, before us there were men who lived in the morning twilight and dim dawn, and others who lived in a night only illumined by the faint glimmer of the stars. The race's knowledge of God has grown from more to more, and every fresh discovery of God's nature has meant moral and spiritual uplift for the world---for a race's standards and ideals are ultimately determined by the nature of the God it worships.

In the beginning of things, men believed in a multitude of gods. Each clan, each tribe, each city had its own special deity. These gods were like petty princelings, for their power was limited to their own clan or tribe or city, and beyond such clan or tribe or city their writ did not run. The ancient Greeks, for example, peopled the world with gods. They gave every tree and river and spring its deity. They pictured the greater gods as dwelling in Olympus, and, although Zeus was considered to be in some fashion king of the gods, yet each god had his own special and peculiar sphere of influence, and each went his own sweet way. In Greek story, gods and goddesses are represented as intervening in the affairs of men. They take sides in human quarrels. In the Homeric hymns, for example, Hera, and Peallas Athene are represented as using their power on the side of the Greeks, and Aphrodite as using hers on the side of the Trojans. Now, it needs no pointing out that so long as people believed in gods many, gods oftentimes at variance amongst themselves, there could be no real belief in plan or purpose in the life of the world. A Pantheon is inconsistent with any real faith in Providence. Polytheism gives men not a cosmos, but a chaos.

Even among the Jews, who in the matter of religion have been the supreme teachers of our race, the idea that God was One and that He was the God of the whole earth took long years in coming to birth. The Jews were henotheists long before they were monotheists. That is to say, they limited their worship to one God---Jehovah---long before they realized that Jehovah was the only God. At first Jehovah was just the Hebrew God, a local and tribal deity whose sphere of influence was limited to the tribe that worshipped Him. When Jacob fled for his life he thought he was leaving his father's God behind. He was taken wholly by surprise when he found that God was still near him though he had wandered far from his father's tents. 'Surely,' he said, when he awoke out of his sleep, 'the Lord was in this place and I knew it not.' The popular idea of God as being local and limited is illustrated in the excuse the servants of Benhadad, the Syrian king, advanced for the defeat of his troops at the hands of the people of Northern Israel. 'Their gods,' they said, 'are gods of the hills, therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight them in the plain and surely we shall be stronger than they.' And that the idea of local and limited gods was not confined to what we call pagan peoples, but was shared by the Hebrews themselves, is proved by what King Ahaz did after his defeat by the king of Syria. He sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus which smote him, and said, 'Because the gods of the Syrians help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me.' While the Hebrews regarded Jehovah as their own special God, and gave some sort of obedience to the command, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' that did not prevent them from thinking that there were many other gods beside Jehovah, and that these other gods had authority and power amongst other peoples.

It was a tremendous day when it flashed upon the mind of the seer that Jehovah was the God of the whole earth---not only of Canaan, but of the world---and that all the gods of the nations were idols, mere blocks of wood and stone, dead and inert things, possessed of no power of authority, possessed, indeed, of no real existence. The prophet brushes aside the mob of deities wherewith other nations peopled the earth---brushed them aside with a certain intellectual scorn---they were nothing, he said, but the work of the smith and the carpenter---and claims the whole place for God. 'Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.' 'I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.'

The revelation that God was One, and that He was the Only, was one of the most tremendous truths ever flashed into the mind of man. It has profoundly affected thought and practical life. It has had certain great and momentous consequences.

To begin with, it has given us a universe, a cosmos, a rational and intelligible world. There could be no universe so long as the world was supposed to be under the sway of a number of conflicting and competing deities. If various gods were at work in this world of ours, prosecuting their own plans and furthering their own purposes, we should have a confused, incalculable, chaotic world. That accounts for the sigh of relief with which an educated Japanese welcomed the proclamation of the Christian gospel. "One God." he exclaimed, "not eight millions; that was joyful news to me." One of the regulative ideas of our time is that of the uniformity of Nature. There is nothing accidental or haphazard or casual---Nature can be depended on. Astronomers, for example, can forecast to the minute the coming of an eclipse. But what is the uniformity of Nature but the scientific aspect of the unity of God? We have a reasonable world, a world which we can decipher and understand, a universe and not a chaos, because behind all Nature's phenomena there is a Mind, a single Mind; because God, one God, works all and in all.

And as it makes our world a universe, so it justifies us in believing there is meaning and purpose in life---the life both of the individual and of the world. To believe in a multitude of gods, playing at cross-purposes, using men and women as pawns in their game, is to reduce life to a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. We are able to believe that things work together for good only because we believe there is one God at work, and He a good and loving God. And we are able to believe that, in spite of delays and set-backs and reactions, there is some 'far-off Divine event to which the whole creation moves' only because we believe in one God, one Sovereign Lord steadily bringing to pass His own chosen and determined purpose.

And, also, the unity of God carries with it the unity of the race. If there were a multitude of gods, each dowered with creative power, we could not assert the unity of the race. In the ancient world we do actually find some nations claiming a different origin from others in order to assert their superiority over them. But there is one God. It is He that has made us and not we ourselves. One God! and we are all His creation. Humanity is one wherever we find it. It is one in spite of differences of color and physiognomy and speech. It is one in spite of the vast differences in development which separate the child races of Africa and the south Seas from the finished product of Western civilization---one because created by the same God, with fundamentally the same feelings and instincts and aspirations. 'We are His offspring!' All men can make that great and stupendous statement. The unity of God is the ultimate ground of, and justification for, our faith in the essential unity of the human race.

We are suffering today from an exaggerated nationalism. For nationalism---while right and good in itself---unless it is modified by the larger patriotism of the race, may easily become a dangerous and deadly thing. The truth that needs to be brought home to the minds and consciences of men just now is the truth that the race is a unity---the whole of mankind is one great household. We are all of the same family. Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Swiss---whatever we be---we are brothers together, for there is one God and Father of all. Our several nationalisms are reconciled, and find their unity in this larger internationalism. And, unless our national patriotisms are modified by this sense of race relationship, our nationalism may be the torch to set the world on fire.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha