The Divine Blessedness
Romans 1:23
And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts…

I. Let us approach this subject from the easiest standpoint, that of THE FUTURE. We project our vision through dim ages yet to come. The curse has gone from the universe. Terrible whilst it lasted, God's tenderness has at last abolished it from the hearts and lives of men. God's innate blessedness has been transfused into numbers no arithmetic can compute, and they are eager to copy the beneficence that has won their supreme adoration. If there were fresh worlds to be redeemed, not one would decline the task, for the Son who gave Himself a ransom for many is in them. In spirits many as the sands of the sea, He has implanted the foundation motives of His own saving love, and has drawn them into the same circle of sacred joy with Himself. When we look at God from this standpoint, it is not difficult to conceive of Him as infinitely and endlessly blessed. But the subject is not without its difficulties.

1. On the far-off confines of all this blessedness, is there not the smoke of a torment that ascendeth up forever and ever? Whilst there is one world of guilt and pain, can God's great pitying heart be quite at rest? Well, do not suppose that the ratio between good and evil will always be what it was when Christ spoke of the few that were saved, or even what it is now. Evil will shrink to ever-diminishing proportions in the uncounted centuries yet to be. In the quiet night the heavens breathe their wealth of dew upon the fields and moors and forests, but you can scarcely find the dewdrop that has distilled itself into the cup of the nightshade. For many a hundred miles the trellised vines spread their proud clusters before the sun, You may travel for days before you find the one vine that has been smitten with mildew. Uncounted suns glitter through the Milky Way. The astronomer may search for months before he can find the sun whose light has been quenched. And so evil will be lost in the prevalence of good, and God's blessing prove itself measureless.

2. But does not this view run counter to that of the Good Shepherd who left the ninety and nine to seek that which was lost? Yes, if the lost one could still be brought back. But I know of no law of beneficence that compels the Shepherd to tarry in the wilderness when the wanderer fights the hand that seeks to guide it back, or rushes into thickets where it is impossible to follow it. I know of no law of beneficence which compels the Shepherd to sit down by the carcase of His lost sheep, like Rizpah by the bones of her son, and rend the air with incessant lamentation. God would be untrue to the claims of the saved if He were so full of regrets for the lost few, that He could not rejoice with infinite gladness over the saved multitudes.

3. But was not God the Father of these lost ones, and can a father be perfectly blessed whilst a single child remains in uncancelled sin and abiding torment? But what is it that haunts the mind of the parent? The sense of possible failure in himself. "If I had guided more wisely, spoken more softly, prayed more faithfully, sympathised more ungrudgingly, possibly the issue might have been otherwise." But no thought akin to that can be awakened in the Divine mind. Whatever suffering convulses the world of impenitence, He has not contributed to it. In respect of the damned He has the blessedness of knowing that He has done for them all that infinite love and patience and resource could.

4. But He might have withheld the freedom through the misuse of which these men have damned themselves. Yes, but that would have been to create a vast negative hell of privation and frustrated gladness, in place of a limited positive hell of incurable perversity and woe. If God does all that His great heart can devise, and all that His mighty hand can achieve, and if what He has done issues in the sanctity and blessedness of a vast preponderating majority, God is without qualification infinitely blessed.

II. Contemplate God's blessedness from the standpoint of THE PRESENT. That is much more difficult. How are we to reconcile God's blessedness with suffering and sin? If a mother lay in a trance, conscious of all that was going on around, but unable to move, and heard the cry of pain from her little one, could she be blessed? And God seems to be blessed? And God seems to be present in every scene of human woe. The human parent is spared the pain of looking upon the actual circumstances of the child's profligacy. But God is looking with unveiled eye upon every offence. One hot summer morning, long before daybreak, I wandered through the streets of a Japanese city. The houses are built of thin board, and the rooms separated by paper partitions only. I cannot describe the strange sensations that took possession of my mind. I could hear the tick of every clock, the very breath and movements of the sleepers. And I thought, Is it not thus with God as He walks through this world of ours? How can He be perfectly blessed? The least sensitive man in our midst could not bear it for an hour. Is not God's present relation to pain a qualification of His blessedness?

1. No; for He is ever exercising a ministry of pity and healing. A nervous woman in the presence of disaster is brought by the excess of grief to the verge of madness; but commit to her some trifling ministry of help, and she becomes calm as an angel. The people whose lives are employed in mitigating pain are always the happiest. And so the blessedness God realises through His secret ministry to sorrow, protects Him against the shadow that the spectacle of widespread suffering might otherwise cast upon His gladness.

2. God's blessedness can suffer no eclipse from contact with pain, because it is His will to make it the vehicle for the manifestation of conspicuous tenderness. How many cynical people have only felt the sympathy and affection of their kind in the hour of affliction? Although the human heart in its perversity may make of suffering a curse, it is God's will to make it a point in our wilderness lives at which sweet, secret springs of Divine and human sympathy shall arise and blend with each other, and create magic balm and beauty and freshness. When God's purpose is accomplished, He makes His servants glory in their tribulations; and when men glory in their tribulations God glories with them, and in that case His blessedness is not impaired.

3. God's blessedness is not overshadowed by human pain, because by it He is teaching us sympathy with each other, and conformity to His own pattern of beneficence. God very often does not help and heal because He wants us to do it. God is blessed in the very pains of His creatures, when they teach His people to be full of kindness.

4. God looks upon pain from the standpoint of that wider epoch when sorrow and sighing shall have fled away,

(1) Pain so viewed cannot darken His gladness. What a little thing the pain and sickness of your childhood is, when you look at it through the vista of years! Pain is nothing when passed, and, regarded from the standpoint of the Eternal, it is as though it were passed already.

(2) So with death — so sad, solemn, unknown to us, it is a very different thing as God sees it. Some time ago a young lady was operated upon who had been blind from her childhood. The operations themselves were not painful, but the terror created by the returning power of sight was excruciating. She wished to remain in blindness. She felt as though she were always standing upon the brink of a precipice. But the doctor felt no remorse. He knew that his patient would by and by rejoice in the faculty of sight. So when death takes the scales from our sight, the revelation is full of terror. But the beneficent issue of the process is more than a counterpoise to its pain. The work of death does not embitter the blessedness of God. By and by death, like pain, will be no more.

(3) And so with sin, which would otherwise be a qualification of the Divine blessedness. It is in the hearts of parents that the sweetest joys as well as sharpest sorrows are to be found. The father, by his relation and process of loving his children, has given to those children a strange power of wounding him through their disobedience. But the very same love attunes his nature to gratifications that may reach him through the conduct of dutiful and loving children. God looks upon the race in Jesus Christ, and in regard to their future. He may see the prodigal in his unholy riot. That is the fleeting image of the moment. He sees the restored prodigal welcomed back within the household. That is the reality that abides. He may hear the music to whose seductive strains the prodigal is listening in the haunts of harlotry, and that is the murmur in the sea shell. He hears also the music and gladness in the homes whose vacant places have just been filled again, and that is the pealing anthem of an everlasting ocean. In that anthem the faint murmurs in the shells that strew the shore are swallowed up and forgotten. There are terrible contingencies connected with the gift of free will. But we must never forget the profound theology in the simple parable of the marriage feast. God will find countless recipients for the bounty His great love has made ready; if not amongst Pharisees, then amongst publicans; if not amongst Jews, then amongst Gentiles; if not in the men of this generation, then in uncounted generations yet to come.

III. Realise God's blessedness in relation to THE PAST. We go back to the epochs when the worlds had not issued upon their courses. How can we reconcile the Divine blessedness with solitude? There can be no blessedness without beneficence, and no beneficence without a relation.

1. Well, the beneficence of character that was the spring of all after triumph and achievement was there. The righteousness and purity and love that were exercised in the relations to be afterwards constituted, were already living and conscious forces. And God could not be morally perfect without being infinitely blessed in Himself.

2. More still: the Son, who was to be the instrument for the accomplishment of all the Father's vast and holy and loving purposes, was already a willing instrument in the Father's bosom. And in the life of that Son every soul was reflected that was to be afterwards united by faith to Him as its Saviour and Head. Literary artists sometimes identify themselves with the creatures of their imagination. They have shed tears over their pains and reverses, and been in ecstasies over the good fortune to which they thought fit to bring them at the breaking of the clouds. And the mind of God has been peopled from the beginning with the forms of those who were afterwards to be, not the figures of a romance only, but profound realities upon the platform of human life and action. And towards all these, the Divine love has been pouring itself out from everlasting. Conclusion: But it may be asked: "Does not this view of the eternal blessedness of God preclude the possibility of sympathy? How can the eternal God enter into the fleeting sorrows of time? Can He grieve for us in our grief and shame? Does not the vast perspective in His vision seem to exclude every trace of affinity and sensitive relation with our mortal life?" Just as the human eye has different focal lengths, and can adjust itself to the different degrees in which light may be diffused, so the Divine mind can mysteriously combine into one the view of life opening itself at the standpoint of time, and that other view opening itself at the standpoint of eternity. Indeed, in the Person of Jesus He has given us proof of the fact that He can bring Himself under the conditions of time, looking at sorrow and sin from our own levels, and transcending all human brotherhood and friendship in the perfectness of His sympathy.

(T. G. Selby.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

WEB: and traded the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things.

The Blessedness of God
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