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This view of God's will as infinite force and man's as finite force seems, so far as our spiritual nature is concerned, to leave us three options, all alike unhappy. The floodgates of God's might may be so opened upon man as to obliterate all his individual features in one universal inundation; or they may so shut off God's succour as to leave man's whole nature a parched desolation in which uninspired resolutions grow as a meagre salt bush; or they may so let grace out in places and withhold it in others as to break up the desert only by stagnant pools. When we insist that God's power, being absolute, can have no limitation, human responsibility vanishes and no human character is left even in error and sin; yet, if we set over against God man's will, as the only element in moral decision, morals become negative and external, and religion a mere appendage to this formal morality. Working compromises readily ignore logical contradictions, if only, in spite of logic, they can be made to work. But when they work for the corruption of morals by religion and of religion by morals, more than theory is at stake. The conclusion would seem to be that "fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute" involves controversy so endless, unconvincing and profitless that it should be left to occupy a vacant 40 eternity and be dismissed from time. But the question will not remain dismissed, because the nature of our dependence upon God is of the most practical moment both for our liberty and our faith, our morals and our religion, and, so long as we think of God's will as infinite force and man's as finite force, the only way is to determine their boundaries. Then, forthwith, our moral independence and our religious dependence become

"Incensed points of mighty opposites,"
having nothing in common save a hostile frontier.

But the method which leads to a practical result so disastrous requires us to carry the question farther back, and to ask whether grace is a force which can be delimited. Behind that question, is yet another of vital importance to the answer we shall give. How shall we ask? Is it to be in the old way of arguing down from the throne of God, of propounding what seems to us fitting in the relation of an Infinite Being to His finite creatures, or is it to be upward from the actual position we occupy here below?

For mapping out from above God's operations, it must be admitted that we occupy no vantage ground. We are not able at all to soar, and we look up with no eagle eye. Only if we can see grace as it works on earth and understand it as it affects our own experience, can we possibly hope to have either clearness or certainty.

As soon, however, as we are able to rid ourselves of the idea of omnipotence guided by omniscience as 41 irresistible violence on a pre-determined scheme, and conceive it as freedom to choose its own ends, directed by a manifold wisdom selecting and using the means for attaining them, we begin to see how worthless is this scheme of the Divine and how vital is an understanding of our own experience. If instead of a God circumscribed on every hand by considerations of His own dignity, we have One manifesting His wise care in the most trivial events and common relationships, a God primarily concerned with our need and not with His own schemes or His own honour, to look up from earth will not be a disadvantageous position forced upon us by our lowliness, but the only place from which to understand a relation to us which is of love, in the sense at least of being considerate of what we are. If grace is determined by love, not merely as spacious sentiment, but as this practical regard, the first question cannot be, How would it seek to display its dignity? but must be, How would it serve its children? And as that service takes place upon earth, our experience upon earth alone can be the means of understanding its character. The supreme question, therefore, regarding grace, would be, What, amid all it does with us, is the end it seeks to serve? And the certain answer would be that its end is the succour of moral persons.

In that case the way to understand the nature of grace is not to theorise about the operation of omnipotence, but to ask ourselves, What is a moral personality, and, how is it succoured? To consider 42 instead the coruscation of omnipotence as resistless might and of omniscience as undeflected fixity of plan, is as if an engineer could only prove his power by making engines weighty enough to break all the bridges. Real power, on the contrary, is never violent, and real wisdom never rigid.

If grace, therefore, be the operation of love, the essence of which is to have its eyes directed away from its own dignity or any form of self-display and towards the object of its care, an inquiry into its nature must be vain which does not start by considering the human nature it would succour. In that case, the first question is not, What is the nature of God's grace? but, What is the nature of a moral person?

The moment we turn to this latter question, we find that the vital and distinguishing characteristic of a moral person is what philosophers have called autonomy. When that is lost, man is no longer a person, but is a mere animate creature. This independence is the singular, the unique quality of a person, and in any relations between persons where, on either side, this is ignored, the relation becomes less than personal. All free and noble and right relations between men, on the contrary, depend on keeping it sacred and inviolate, on both sides and in all aspects of life.

This autonomy appears in the essential quality of our experience, that it is self-conscious; in the essential quality of our aims, that they are self-directed; in the essential quality of our acts, that they are self-determined. Yet, we must beware of regarding these as separate autonomies, because much futile and 43 misleading discussion arises from thus isolating the problems of mind. They are merely aspects of the one independence of a moral person, which consists in being self-determined, according to his own self-direction, in his own self-conscious world.

No succour that would be personal may ignore this central characteristic of the moral person. Every day we are reminded of the impossibility of truly helping people except through themselves, and of the irrelevance for our own lives of all that does not approach us through some personal relationship. Help may be irresistibly individual, as when we pick up a child, in its despite, from under a carriage wheel, yet it may be as little personal as when the child is still left struggling in the arms of a stranger, crying for its mother. No really personal aid can be of purely external operation, but must call forth a response from within. It cannot even be direct in any way, but must pass round so as to embrace giver and receiver in one fellowship. Nothing could be gained for this end by increasing the might of a direct force even up to omnipotence or directing it on a perfect plan even up to omniscience; but the more overwhelming it were, the less personal it would become.

If this be also true of God's relation to His children, it is manifest that His grace must work through His world, and that to isolate it from the religious and moral interpretation of our experience is merely, from first to last, to turn a living personal relation into a mechanical abstraction, which cannot but mislead us in all our thoughts about God.

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