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Isaiah 54:5 - Homilies By R. Tuck

God-worshippers outside Judaism.

"The God of the whole earth shall he be called." To our fathers the world seemed but small; to us it is great, and its bounds are ever enlarging. In olden times the few travellers came back with marvellous stories of griffins and dragons and mermaids, at which ignorant crowds gaped, but at which we can afford to smile. Now almost every part of the earth is searched again and again, and distant lands have become almost as familiar to us as our own. Men still chafe, indeed, because the vast northern seas will not yield the last mysteries which they conceal, though even the secret of the North Pole seems to be almost reached. How greatly our thoughts about God's world differ from the thoughts of our fathers! How greatly the thoughts of our own manhood and age differ from the thoughts of our youth! We find it difficult to realize to ourselves some of the opinions of our forefathers, and to fit them into the Word of God, as we read it. This especially refers to their opinions about humanity as a whole, and about the destiny of the race. England, "encompassed by the inviolate sea," is in danger of being as exclusive as was Palestine, hemmed in by the mountains, the desert, and the sea; and unless we watch ourselves, and resist the evil tendency, there may grow up in us a pride as unlovely as that which marked the privileged Jew, and made him brand all other nations as heathen, who were wholly excluded from Jehovah's love and care. The later Jewish prophets plead earnestly against that proud exclusiveness that led the people to think themselves the favoured of the Lord, and so to despise others. Prophets taught the people to look abroad, and see that God is working, both by his mercies and by his judgments, in all those nations around them which they called "heathen." The prophets, in effect, speak thus: " It is quite true that you are set in the midst of the world to be a witness and a blessing to surrounding nations; but it is equally true that those nations are set about you to be example and impulse and warning to you. God is dealing with them for their sakes and for yours, just as truly as he is dealing with you for your sake and for theirs." That there might be no ground whatever for the exclusive appropriation of God by the Jews, God says, "Blessed be Egypt my people , and Assyria the work of my hands , and Israel mine inheritance" The nature of God's relation to the entire race is the foundation of religious truth. All our religious ideas are toned by the view we take of this relation. Men but feebly grasp the notion of one only God, supreme in and over all things. They can much more readily grasp the conception of many gods, each one supreme in his own limited department. When God gives a particular revelation to one nation, that nation is tempted to say, "God is specially our God. He belongs to us, and to nobody else." So St. Paul's appeal needs to be heard again and again, "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles?" No doubt we shall all agree that there is but one Creator, and that he who made all provides for all. tie is interested in all humanity; "his tender mercies are over all his works." But what a singular distinction has grown up in our minds! We have come to think that this one God is interested in the physical well-being of the million heathen, graciously watching over life, and health, and food, and pleasures, and relationships, but not really concerned for their moral and spiritual well-being. We do not find ourselves unutterably distressed, as we should be, with the thought, which is in many of our minds, that the million heathen brothers are outside the pale of God's revelation, and eternally lost. But surely, if God made men moral beings; if there is, in the wildest savage, the sense of right and wrong;—then God bears saving relations to the moral life of man everywhere. He must see and reward the man everywhere who offers him worship, as he apprehends him who struggles for the good as he knows it. He must see and punish the man everywhere who yields to the evil which he knows to be evil. So St. Paul thought, breaking free from the exclusive bondages of his Judaism. And so St. Paul teaches us to think. We must not venture to sweep all the vast mass of humanity, outside Christianity, into some terrible under-world of woe. There is but one God for them and for us. Everywhere he is Light, and he is Love—Light and Love in his response to every poor heathen soul as truly as to us Christians. No matter what may be the name by which the heathen seeker may call the great Spirit—be it Tangaroa, or Morimo, or Tsikuap, or Varuna, or Brahma—he seeks the One, the Living , the Source of all. And he may gain the answering smile of the one God's acceptance. St. Paul is very plain and very firm in his statement: "When the Gentiles, which have not the Law, do by nature the things contained in the Law, these, having not the Law, are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and. their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another." We may wisely try to break clown this tendency to limit the operations of God's grace just to ourselves. Mission work is breaking it down, by wakening our sympathy with seeking souls. The study of comparative religions is breaking it down, by showing us, hidden deep in heathen religions, penitence, confession, humility, love, faith, consecration, prayer, hope, virtue, and submission. Everywhere we find yearning hearts, the sense of sin, the prayer for pardon, the dependence of faith, the cry after God, who is "God of the whole earth."—R.T.

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