Ever Busy, Yet Ever At Rest

Eph. 4:6.---' One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.'

There is a well known passage in the Confessions of St. Augustine, where he asks and answers the question, What is God? in a very impressive way. 'What art Thou then, my God?' he cries. 'Highest, best, most powerful, most omnipotent; most merciful and most just; most deeply hidden and yet most near. Fairest, yet strongest; steadfast, yet unseizable [incomprehensible]; unchangeable, yet changing all things; never new, yet never old. . . . Ever busy, yet ever at rest; gathering, yet needing not; bearing, filling, guarding; creating, nourishing, and perfecting; seeking, though Thou hast no wants. . . . What can we say, my God, my life, my holy joy? or what can anyone say who speaks of Thee?'

The most noticeable point in this beautiful description [apart from the intense feeling of love which pervades it] is the idea that runs through it that God is the reconciliation of opposites. His infinite attributes, in so far as they can be expressed at all, can be expressed only by statements which to our infinite capacity appear to involve a contradiction. Take the phrase, 'Ever busy, yet ever at rest.' That represents two opposite conceptions of the nature of God, towards one or the other of which the human mind seems to move inevitably at different times.

On the one hand there is the answer of philosophy. Behind the fleeting world of sense philosophy has reached the idea of an Absolute Reality, a One, Eternal, Self-existent, Infinite Being, unconditioned and unknowable, and conceivable only through the medium of man's power of abstract reason.

On the other hand there is the answer of science. In so far as it gives an answer at all, science has reached a different conclusion. It has formed the idea of a great force immersed in the world of matter, setting in motion all the operations of Nature, evolving life through all its stages and complex developments, itself the central law which regulates the working of the universe, itself the prime origining impulse, though known only to man through the effects which have resulted.

Christianity changes the whole situation. In the place of an impersonal Abstraction, Christianity puts a loving Father, to whose infinite majesty His children can turn, with awe indeed, but still with love and confidence; and in the place of an impersonal Force it puts and infinitely good and wise Creator, who sustains all created things by His providential care through the operation of general laws, which His lovingkindness by degrees enables us to discover.

The twofold aspect of God thus recognized by Christianity explains the meaning of St. Augustine's contrast, 'ever busy, yet ever at rest.' God is ever at work as Creator, Upholder, Sustainer of the universe and of man, yet ever existing apart from and independently of the forces which we see around us in Nature. That is the thought in St.Paul's mind when he speaks of 'one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all'---above all as the Transcendent, Eternal Father, who must never be confused with the universe which He has made, and on the other hand through all, as being immanent in the universe, the Word of Creation, the Source of physical law, the Providence that is always at work, not merely through the evolution of Nature but through the course of human history. 'Above all and through all.'

'Ever bust, yet ever at rest'; 'Transcendent and yet Immanent.' We cannot deny the difficulty of reconciling these contradictions; yet we believe that reconciliation is possible. Christianity, in fact, feels the vital need of this reconciliation between pure Absolute Being and creative sustaining energy. A God who was entirely beyond our reach, while on the other hand a God who existed merely in the universe would reduce the Christian creed to something undistinguishable from pantheism. St. Paul identifies the two aspects of God, viewed as both above all and through all, with the First and Second Persons of the Trinity. The Transcendent Father and the Son 'by whom all things were made' are only two manifestations of one and the same God; two personalities, yet only One God. Our Father which is in heaven speaks to us by His Son, who has not merely created the world, but has regenerated human nature.

But if this were the whole of the Christian doctrine of God, would not the relations between God and man be after all incomplete. God means nothing to us if we cannot place ourselves in direct communion with Him. How then are we to reach Him, know Him, feel His presence? The answer is that we can do so only by virtue of our possessing within ourselves some portion of the Spirit of God. That is the thought which underlies St. Paul's third statement. He not merely exists apart from and above all, He not merely works through all, He also dwells in all. Like goes out to like. The Divine Spirit in man reaches out towards God. It finds God because it itself partakes of the nature of God. This Divine element in our human nature came forth from God and finds in God its ultimate goal. It proceeds from the Father through the Son, and from the Son to man; and through the Son it again returns to the father, so that over and over again the eternal circle is completed 'from goodness, through goodness, to goodness.' Thus the indwelling of the Spirit is a result of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Light, Life, and Love. Our religion would become a very different thing from what it is now, if we could make these three symbols of the Trinity more of a reality to ourselves. First, 'the Father of Lights,' as St. James calls Him, 'with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning.' 'Dominus illuminatio mea.' Secondly, the life-giving and life-sustaining Personality of the divine Son---'Christ Who is our Life,' Christ Who came that we might have life and have life abundantly, Christ Who tells us that He is 'the resurrection and the life.' And thirdly, that fire of Love which the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts. If only that flame burned brighter, then we should have no fear that our longings for the knowledge of God would ever remain unsatisfied: then through the Three persons we should look up to the one God, and in the power of the Divine Majesty should be able to worship the Unity.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha