No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
I. THE INVISIBLE GOD.
1. We are invisible to each another; nay, to ourselves. There is a veil between our spirit and another that, while our words and looks may serve to indicate what is passing within, they cannot unveil the indwelling soul. And so utterly can the soul tyrannize over the house in which it dwells, that it can compel it to illuminate its windows with festive joy when all is woe within, or compel it to darken them when all within is mirth and revelry. And if we cannot see man, much less can we see God.
2. There is no law that God has impressed on nature that we can see. Form and colour we can see, and that things move, but not the pervading life nor the gravitation which holds them together in their orbits.
3. The material universe is but a faint indication of God's greatness, nor does it seem possible for even omnipotence to embody itself in matter. We might imagine the sun robbed of its beams, and heaven, earth, and sea combining to surrender whatever of beauty or grandeur they contain, still the result would be miserably insufficient to portray the glory of the invisible God.
4. The mind is baffled in its attempt to grasp the fundamental mystery. The loftiest conception we have is that of infinity. And yet this is a mere negation, and must be affirmed of each separate attribute as well as the totality of God's being.
5. Without the guidance of revelation no one has ever reached any fair conception of the unity, spirituality, and moral character of God. Though day unto day has been uttering speech, and night unto night showing knowledge, the mass of the rude and unlearned have everywhere, divided the empire of the universe among gods many and lords many. And as to the philosophers, such of them as have been able to emancipate themselves from gross polytheism, have either guessed at the truth that there is one God, and have contented themselves with a cold deduction of reason, or they have merged God and nature in one, thus destroying His personality in Pantheism. The world never by wisdom knew God. And were we to close the Book of Revelation in a few generations we should relapse into a heathenism as absolute as that of Greece and Rome.
6. And as for the supposed teachings of natural religion, they are but flashes from the revealed Word. We are astonished that any eye can miss the Divine monogram written large in the heavens, small in the flower. But we do not search nature for the invisible, we take the idea with us.
II. THE DECLARED GOD. Christ has revealed the Father in three ways which meet and satisfy these corresponding necessities in man.
1. The incarnation, e.g., of the spiritual in the bodily meets that necessity which feels how impossible it is to grasp the purely spiritual. We do not feel happy at the thought of what is both infinite and invisible. Who has not felt at times the all but intolerable oppression that comes upon the spirit when one has stood in the shadow of Alpine mountains! We are bewildered by the unmanageable vastness of the conception of an all-prevailing God. We long for something that we can more effectually compass. We wish to pray; are heavy laden and sad; but infinitude is too grand for us in such hours, and we long for a friend who can take our hand and say, "Fear not I am with thee." But God, the great and glorious mystery, has been manifest in the flesh. As He had to reveal Himself to man, He found no better medium than man, the form with which we were most familiar, and of which we should be least afraid.
2. By His character and life Christ declares to us the moral character of God. There is much in God which humanity, even in its highest and purest type, is inadequate to represent. The medium is tarnished and dimmed so that the heavenly light cannot shine through it, or only brokenly. Once only has humanity formed a medium through which, in its unmingled brightness and beauty, the moral character of God might pour its beams. To learn the mural character of God we must learn it in Christ; its holiness, its tenderness, its mercy for the sinful.
3. Christ has declared to us the Fatherly character of God. God we are told is love. This He is in Himself, and this He has been pre-eminently to us. We need more than words, and then, when we receive but words from those who might give us more real help, we learn bitterly that all friends are not true. Now there is no better test of love than the test of endurance and suffering, but Divine love has made for us the highest sacrifice, "for God so loved the world," etc.
(E. Mellor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.