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IV.

THE PERSONALITY AND OFFICE OF GOD THE

FATHER.

BY REV. J. W. LOVE, A.M.

THAT there is a Supreme Being, whether the God of the Bible, or some other, is not only very generally conceded, by both Christian and pagan peoples, but is also a very part of man's innate consciousness. While here and there an individual may be found, who, from wilful blindness of mind and hardness of heart, can deny the existence of a personal God, there is no race of people, or even tribe of any nationality that does not believe in and worship some form of Deity. In the history of mankind there are comparatively few atheists known, and of those who profess atheism, it may be doubted whether many, if any of them have been able to crush out of their hearts the feeling, that, after all, there is a God be He Jehovah, Buddha, Mishna, or "The Unknown God."

To attempt to prove the existence of God, especially to any civilized and enlightened people, it seems to me, would be like an attempt to prove our own existence, and the existence of the world around us an act of sheer folly. I do not believe that the Word of God, which Christians recognize as His divine revelation, anywhere warrants us in attempts to prove any of its profound truths, by a process of reasoning outside of its own declarations, or even to do so from God's first revelation-the book of nature. Ministers are commissioned and ordained to preach and teach the divine truth, not to prove it independently of what the Word itself teaches. The truth, if simply preached or taught, will always find a response in the needs of man, and

authenticate itself to his inner con sciousness, if he is really a seeker after truth.

The God of the Bible addresses Himself both to our reason and our faith. The one is never really in conflict with the other. Opinions may greatly differ, and all sorts of absurd notions may be mistaken for the contents of faith, but true faith, which is the gift of God, will always be in fullest harmony with true reason. It does accept and appropriate that which is above reason, or which cannot be fathomed by the finite mind, but it is never contrary to reason. An intelligent faith is always in harmony with reason, though not necessarily one that understands all hidden or revealed truth.

In discussing the subject, I do not therefore feel called upon to prove the personality of God the Father, or to treat of His office outside of what we are plainly taught in His Word, and of what has been found true in human experience. Whatever uses speculative theology may have, it is not a divinely authorized agency for saving, or even for comforting sin-distressed souls. The same is true of all forms of philosophy, and of scientific teaching, not based upon or properly a part of God's inspired revelation, which we call the Bible.

Why, then, do we believe in the personality and office of God. the Father, as distinct from the personalities and offices of God the Son, and of God the Holy Ghost? I answer, simply because we are so taught in the inspired Word. It would take me beyond the limits of this article to argue at any length the wellestablished doctrine of the Trinity. It will suffice to say, (as is well known,) that the prominent teachers in all branches of the orthodox Christian Church, from the apostolic fathers, down to the present, have interpreted divine revelation as teaching both the Unity and Trinity of the Godhead. The Old Testament emphasized more especially, it is true, the Unity of God, because the tendency in Old Testament times was to polytheism. But the germ of the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly found in the teachings of patriarchs, prophets, poets and historians of the old dispensation. The very name of God-Elohim,

—which is plural-and the account given of conferences held by the persons of the Godhead in reference to the creation and redemption of man, even long before He was created, show plainly, especially in the light of New Testament teaching, that, while the Deity is one, there was already in the counsels of Eternity a varied manifestation of later and fuller trinitarian revelation. The personality of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God and Father, was in fact a fundamental doctrine of the Jewish religion from the first, and continues to be such, to the present day. It is admitted that the doctrine of the Trinity, as held and taught in the Christian Church, is a fuller development of personality in Deity, but it is in no sense contradictory to the revealed truth given the Jew for his guidance, comfort, and instruction. That Jesus, and the authors of the New Testament all teach the personality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, seems to be as plain as language can make it.

To quote passages would be superfluous to readers of this REVIEW. It was so clear to the mind of the apostolic and primitive Church fathers, that it was not even thought necessary to treat of it in a technical sense. It was only after it began to be perverted and misconstrued by false teachers, that the Church felt called upon to formulate, and carefully word trinitarian creeds-especially the one known as the Nicene creed. It might be interesting, but space forbids, to treat at length of the great trinitarian controversy, that culminated in the clear expression of saving, comforting truth as contained in the creed referred to, adopted by the Council of Nice, A. D., 325.

We may only add, that so thoroughly was the trinitarian question settled by the Nicene fathers, that there has been but little room for controversy, in regard to it, since their day. Accordingly to-day the personality of the Father, with that of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, stands as an impregnable bulwark of our Holy Christianity, against the puny efforts of Unitarians, and all other unbelievers, to overthrow it.

We hasten to speak of the office of God the Father, as distinct from that of the other persons of the Holy Trinity. What then

is the office of God the Father? I reply, its meaning and purpose is set forth in the word Father. True, this word is used in a general, as well as in a particular, sense. When used to designate the first person of the trinity, it expresses His relation to His Son, Jesus Christ, and, through Him, the relation He sustains to all creation-especially to those who are adopted sons and daughters in Christ. But the word Father is also used to designate the relation of the Deity as such, or of the whole divine essence, to creation, and the world of mankind. In this general sense, it applies to the other persons of the Godhead also; as in the Lord's prayer-" Our Father," etc., and when Jesus is called "the everlasting Father." Isa., ix. 6. As already intimated, the usual and most frequent use of the word Father applies to the first person of the Holy Trinity. He is the eternal Father of the eternally begotten Son, from whom, and the Son, proceeds the Holy Ghost. He is also in the Son, in virtue of our regeneration by the Holy Ghost, our Father in the fullest truest sense. Even as "Creator, Preserver, and bountiful Benefactor," He is our eternal Father, but He is especially such in redemption, as we shall see farther on.

The name Father does not merely indicate a temporal relationship. It means infinitely more than is expressed by His relationship, as its creator, to the universe over which He rules, and which is the object of His providential care. He always was Father, as truly as He was and is God; and it is only in this paternal relation to Christ, that He could and did become the author and source of temporal creation. This is clearly taught by the apostle John in his wonderful prologue to his gospel, when he says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, (or as it is in the margin of the revised version through Him,') and without Him was not anything made that was made." So also the declaration repeatedly made in the Epistles of St. Paul, as in Eph. 3: 9, Col. 1: 16, Heb. 1: 2, and again by St. John, in Rev. 4: 11, that it was by or through the Lord Jesus, that God the Father cre

ated all things, cannot mean anything else than that His Fatherhood, as exercised in and through His Son, is co-eternal with the Godhead itself.

There are also passages in the Old Testament Scriptures which teach the same great truth-I say great truth; because it is a fundamental conception of any true idea of God. The figurative mode of expression by Moses, representing the generations of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2: 1,) as proceeding from God; and of the book of Job. asking; "Hath the rain a father, or who hath begotten the drops of dew," (Job 38: 28.) As also New Testament expressions, such as, "the Father of Lights," and, "to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things," (Jas. 1: 17 and 1 Cor. 8: 6) are evidently intended to set forth the relation of the first person of the Trinity, as the creator of all mundane things; and, (taken in connection with those passages which teach the paternal relation of the Father and the Son, and, through Him, the work of creation), leave no room to doubt the eternal paternity of the first person of the triune God. Thus it is the eternal Father of the eternal Son, by, or through the eternal Son, who is the eternal Creator of all things visible and invisible on earth and in heaven; yea, in the entire universe of God.

It is further in the exercise of the fatherhood of God, that, through His immanence, as well as His transcendence, the universe is upheld, all natural and moral law is maintained, and the eternal purposes of creation are attained. Thus we have the general and the special, (or, if you prefer it; the particular) providences of God the Father in the government of the uni

It is not necessary to quote even a few of the passages sustaining this view; the word of God is full of them, from Genesis to Revelation. If the Scriptures teach anything in reference to God the Father, it is that His office is exercised in the whole work of creation, preservation, and loving care of all things that exist in His universe. To repeat, then, the idea of a personal God, necessitates the Fatherhood of God as from all eternity, in and through His eternally begotten Son, by whom,

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