This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
BY THE REV. J. R. P. SCLATER
" My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God : when shall I
come and appear before God?" PSALM XLII. 2.
" OF all points of faith the being of God is, to my
own apprehension, encompassed with most diffi
culty, and yet borne in upon our minds with most
So spake one of those whom Browning would
call a musician, one of those who know, but not
by painful reason to wit, John Henry ewman.
When such words come from a man to whom God
was the supreme reality of consciousness, they are
of great significance.
Anyone who comes much in contact with minds
that hover on the brink of religious profession will,
I think, admit that it is with the great fact, or
rather, with the expression of the great fact, of the
Over-Reason, whom we call God, that difficulty is
sometimes most felt. It is curious that minds are
often willing to take a vague Christian attitude to
Jesus, who are not willing to assent to the Christian
conception of His, and our, Father. The moral
THE SEAECH FOE GOD 17
lordship of Jesus Christ is freely granted, and a
general sense of debt to Him is admitted ; but when
it comes to statement concerning the Author of our
minds, the attitude taken is practically that living
here means nescience simply .
Such a state of affairs is not necessarily unhealthy
from the Christian point of view. We are not going
to quarrel with anything that tends to emphasize
the supreme importance of attitude towards Christ.
And the hesitancy in making statements about God
may well be regarded as in part desirable, and for
the rest explicable.
For such an attitude appears to be most fre
quent in those that have a scientific turn of mind.
It scarcely needs to be remarked that science has
nothing to do with religion. It stands in relation
to religion, as, let us say, a knowledge of anatomy
does to friendship ; and that is not a very close re
lation. At the same time, scientific inquiry induces
a certain habit of mind, which, being aware of im
mensities and yet not specially speculative, seems
to emphasize the theological difficulty, without
giving any particular capacity for the theological
It is not in the least wonderful that such a mind
should hesitate to make positive statement concern
ing the being of God. And, I must say, we have been
to blame in confirming that hesitation. Christian
people have spoken as if the anthropomorphic terms,
18 THE SEAECH FOR GOD
in which we express our understanding, contained
the whole truth, and was binding upon all minds
of whatsoever sort they may be. We must not be
surprised if such an attitude on our part has tended
to make those, for whom faith is hard, believe that
Christians lack alike sympathy with, and compre
hension of, the great problem of the statement of
I. In the first place, we have to observe that an
attitude of vagueness in giving expression to the
truth of the ature of God, is not only in entire
accord with the practice of those who have most
surely believed in Him, but is in accord with the
devotional writers in Scripture. I remembered
God and was troubled expresses some attitudes
of mind even in the devout.
The Jews, we know, avoided at all costs the
pronouncing of the Ineffable ame. Perhaps, at
the back of that omission, there was something
of the same feeling of reverent mystery as there
certainly was at the back of Tennyson s state
ment, I dare hardly name His name . And if
that is not sufficient, we have the plain state
ment, which is certainly not irrelevant to this
matter, that no man cometh to the Father ; but
by Me .
I suppose that we shall admit that Tennyson
believed in God. Well, listen to the manner of his
address to Him :
THE SEAECH FOE GOD 19
Hallowed be Thy name Halleluiah !
Infinite Ideality !
Immeasurable Eeality !
Hallowed be Thy name Halleluiah !
There is a good deal of positive statement implied
in that outburst ; but it is manifestly written to
give an especial sense of the Aboveness of God.
II. In the second place, such an attitude is in
accord with the methods of approach to God which
are open to us. In our time three extra-canonical
teachers of religion have arisen, who illustrate three
several ways in which the mind may come at the
fact of God. I mean Tennyson, Browning, and now
The first of these, rejecting the common argu
ments, falls back on the assertion, supported by
his own experience, that humanity cannot be con
tent, or even continue to exist, in a Godless Uni
verse. And, then, he simply makes the venture of
faith in the God seen in Christ.
Meredith, a very different man, assents to an
Over-Spirit or Over-Reason as intellectually neces
sary ; but steadily refuses to put the emphasis of
his thought and religious feeling anywhere but on
Earth, which is his name for the sum of all
ature. The Over-Spirit is only dim -guessed
Browning was an Intuitionist. A vivid spark
20 THE SEAECH FOE GOD
had passed between the Eternal and that man s
soul. He was very sure of God . But his state
ment of God s Being was achieved by a study of the
conflicting evidence, given in experience ; made by
a man, however, who was certain of the fact of the
Master-Spirit from direct knowledge.
ow, it is manifest that the first two methods of
approach necessitate a vagueness in speaking of
God. And so does the third, wherever the state
ment goes beyond the boundaries of the vivid ex
perience that lies at the back of it all. A man
awakes to the fact of a mighty love over him ; but
he does not awaken to omnipresence or omnipo
tence. He awakes to a Presence hovering very
near ; but when he would state the nature of that
Presence, he must speak softly. For the Presence
is God ; and he is man. Wherefore, let us not be
too stringent in demanding formulae. If a man
speaks of the All-inclusive/ or The Infinite, or
The Universal Life, I am, for the moment, not
going to quarrel with him very much, if he does
not deny that God is love. After all, none of such
titles comes up to the splendid mysteriousness of
that ancient ame given of old, I am that I am .
III. In the third place, such an attitude does
not justify a rest in negation. There seems to be a
thought in the minds of some, that because God in
some respects must be what man is not, we can dis
cover no qualities in man, which give the beginning
THE SEAECH FOE GOD 21
of a hint as to what God is. We need to remember
that God is the Infinitely Positive ; not the Infinitely
If we may infer the worker from his work, we
may certainly infer him from the highest reaches
of his work. Thus, we find reason in man. Be
cause God is the ot-Man, we are not to say that
He is the ot-Keason. Rather, we say He is
Reason Infinite. He is the Over-Reason. We find
personality in man. Similarly, we say that God is
supra-personal. Moreover, we have the evidence
of the Intuitionists on which to go. They say
God is at least a Person. They say that the nearest
word to describe His heart is c Fatherhood . To
deny their evidence is unscientific. Wherefore,
when we appreciate that there is nothing unintel
ligent in ascribing to God our highest qualities
duly intensified, we accept their statements as
probably the nearest to the truth concerning God
that our speech can contain. We claim assent
to a Universal Life who is Supra-Personal, to
whom the truest title that we can give is our
IV. Ah ! but we desire not merely to assent to a
statement about Him ; we desire to know Him.
Well, upon that, let me make two remarks :
(a) God is not so much good, as God is goodness.
The truest statement is not so much God loves,
as God is Love . Goodness and Love seen now
22 THE SEAECH FOE GOD
are symbols, revelations, of God. The search for
goodness is a search for God.
(/;) If we are to know Him we must thirst for
Him. All men thirst for a something. The mark
of a devout man is that he thirsts for the living God
so thirsts that, however soon he may find Him,
he shall cry, too late have I known Thee, O Thou
Ancient Truth ; too late have I found Thee, first
and only Fair . We must thirst for Him now ;
and pray Him not to
let not reason fail me, nor the sod
Draw from my death Thy living flower and grass,
Before I learn that love which is, and was
My Father, and my Brother, and my God.
Steel me with patience ! soften me with grief !
Let blow the trumpet strongly while I pray,
Till this embattled wall of unbelief
My prison, not my fortress, fall away !
Then, if Thou wiliest, let my day be brief,
So Thou wilt strike Thy glory thro the day.
We must thirst ; and show our thirst by striving to
be fit to know God. You notice a curious order in
this text. It runs, my soul thirsteth for the living
God : when shall I come and appear before God ?
I am afraid that some clever people read that,
when will God come and appear before me ? I
desire to see God ; let Him show Himself to me.
It is a wrong reading. For the vision of God, the
alteration needs to come in me. " Who shall ascend
THE SEAECH FOE GOD 23
into the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in
the Holy Place ? He that hath clean hands and
and a pure heart." " Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God." Meantime, for our inspira
tion, for our guidance in thought, and for the rest
ing of our minds, we have Jesus Christ. Really, it
is hard not to see God in Him.
1. MY TOPICAL IDEX OF 37 THOUSAD SERMOS
2. 68 FREE BOOKS
3. ALL WRITIGS