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We are to covet earnestly the best gifts, yet, if we covet only the gift and pay no heed to the giving, we shall repeat, even in spiritual things, the old Roman story of Tarpeia, who, thinking only of a gift and ignoring the hostility and contempt with which it would be given, demanded from the enemy what they carried on their left arms, and found it not the golden bracelets she expected, but a weight of shields which crushed her to death, and which her greed had overlooked.

Material wealth as mere gift, without interest in the receiver to prepare him for its use, may be a mere weight upon the springs of action and self-control, for idleness and self-indulgence, and not for larger enterprise and usefulness. Instruction, concerned merely with imparting information, without sympathetic understanding of the pupil and care to develope his thought and interest, may be a dead load upon the mind, lumber not education. Both may be more shield than bracelet. And mere giving of moral help may also be flinging of shields upon a victim. Moral precepts and religious dogmas are impressed upon the child as though he were wax. He is shielded and directed, and, if unfortunately he stumble, he is wiped like a doll and set back in his 190 place, till a moral catastrophe too grave to be so amended may be not too costly, if it enable him to save his own personal sense of truth and righteousness from being crushed by this load of individual, but impersonal supervision.

As the true test of a father's aid is the responsibility, freedom and independence of his son, so the proof of God as Father is not in giving good gifts, but in knowing how to give them that they may secure us in freedom and not merely in fortune. The most liberal domination on God's side and the most indebted subjection on ours will never make us sons of God, but only puppets of His pleasure.

If freedom and the right use of it could be merely given and it were only a matter of God moulding us to His will by the word of His power, the manifold slaveries and misuses of the will would seem to show that He is as parsimonious in his exercise of His prerogative as the Pope of his infallibility. But when we thus conceive grace as direct power and a good will as another direct power, we find ourselves trying to conceive that God makes us free by compulsion, while, yet, we are free only as we are not compelled, that God, by the might of His hand, shapes our thinking to truth, our feeling to purity and our wills to good, while, yet, except as we see for ourselves nothing is true, except as our own hearts reverence nothing is pure, except as our own purpose is consecrated nothing is good.

When our doing and God's doing thus become 191 irreconcilable mechanical opposites, and we find ourselves, not only in conflict with experience, but introducing absurdities into it, we ought surely to realise that we have missed our way.

Yet it is followed blindly and persistently, partly from the mechanical nature of our thinking, which, even in the personal sphere where it is wholly misleading, tends to reduce all explanations to the appearance of a law of motion; and partly from the lack of practical harmony in our whole dealing with experience, whereby our faiths and our purposes are put in separate compartments. We constantly look at life religiously and morally, as through a binocular out of focus. At best we dimly feel these worlds are one, though we cannot help seeing them apart even when we look with both eyes; at worst we shut one eye and look morally, and then open that and shut the other and look religiously. Then we say very sagely, room must be found for both worlds. Life, we say, is not a circle but an ellipse with two foci. God is grace, but He is also power -- as if the whole question were not whether the ultimate power is gracious; or God reveals Himself in Christ, but also in Nature -- as if the whole question of Christ were not how Nature is to be interpreted by the purpose of God; or God is love, but He is also justice -- as if the whole question of the government of God did not concern a righteous love; or God speaks in His Word, but also in conscience -- as if there were any word of God not manifested to every man's conscience or any conscience 192 apart from the manifestation of the mind of God; or there is the problem of the individual, but there is also the problem of the Kingdom of God, meaning by that, compromises and adjustments between the claims of institutions and the vagaries of their members -- as though the whole outcome of religion did not concern social persons who only find their own kingdom as they discover God's.

The task of theology is not to effect some kind of working compromise between the two tubes of the binocular, but to find their proper adjustment to one clear field of vision, so that we shall not be moral and religious, but shall so depend upon God as to have in all things moral independence, till our religion becomes morality and our morality religion.

As God is not concerned first with good gifts, but with right giving, measured by right receiving, grace is never a mere direct line of power, passing through us with impersonal directness, as light through window-glass, but is a curve of patient, personal wisdom, encircling and embracing us and all our concerns. With this curve a true theology is wholly occupied.

Grace has always a convex side towards God, and a concave side towards man. Taken separately, they are contradictory and opposite, but, united, they are as perfectly one as the convex and concave sides in one line. As acts of grace and acts of will, they are sheer conflicting forces; in the gracious relation to us of the Father of our spirits, their harmony is the 193 essential expression of our fellowship. Yet, the harmony of love, not of absorption, of personal agreement, not of pantheistic oneness, can be won only as we realise the contradiction and see how God overcomes it, by accepting it.

Every right doctrine of grace, therefore, starts from the conflict between us and God as individuals which, just because it belongs to our power as persons to maintain, God's indirect personal dealing with us alone can overcome.

Religious and moral positions, being opposed mechanically, admit of no solution, but, being combined personally, they admit of no conflict. The way of the working of God's gracious personal relation to His children is shown precisely in this reconciliation, which, being, on His side, the succour of our freedom, and, on ours, the liberty of His children, is not religious in one aspect and moral in another, but is moral because it is religious and religious because it is moral.

Yet this truly personal harmony can be achieved only through contradictions, which are not mere intellectual puzzles to which we might find some clever answer, but are actual practical opposites which arise from the fact that man is one person and God another. As we can, being persons, maintain our separateness from God, they admit only of a religious solution, a solution by showing us that our true freedom in the will of God as the gracious, wise and religious regard for His children which we express as love.


Our relation to God is thereby made moral and religious in inseparable unity. Yet our dependence and our independence are not brought into one by any process of resolving the moral into the religious or the religious into the moral. When the moral is resolved into the religious, man is not one person and God another, but man is overridden in his course and his end is to be absorbed, and God acts as a pantheistic Absolute and not as a Father; when the religious is resolved into the moral, the truly personal relation is also lost, man becoming a mere self-enclosed individual and God a remote Deistic Maker and moral Potentate.

Man being a person, can maintain his separateness from God, and, God's relation to us being personal, He cannot overcome it merely by a grace which irresistibly removes it. His acceptance of it is, on the contrary, the basis of all His dealing with us, so that He cannot succeed by withdrawing our responsibility, but only by making us more perfectly responsible, till we discover our true freedom in making His righteous and holy will our own. That is not attainable by the highest might of omnipotence even guided by omniscience, but only by the patient and wise regard for His children we call love. As love must, from its nature, desire our worth to be in ourselves and not merely to force us, by any kind of means, to be worthy, it must accept the contradictions which arise when our wills are set in one direction and its purpose of good for us in another. Nor has it any other way of 195 overcoming the sin which causes them than the personal persuasion which would enable us to discover that we are true to ourselves only as we seek the highest love appoints for us, and find ourselves only as we lose ourselves for love's sake.

All doctrines of grace, being doctrines of love, and not of power, must accept these calamitous opposites, which are there so long as our will is set in one direction and God's in another. They may neither be ignored nor overriden, but, on the contrary, it is of the essence of a gracious personal relation to be wholly determined by them. It may not take the easy road of might, for, then, instead of achieving a personal relation, the relation between God and man becomes wholly mechanical, as between forces not persons. The very business of a doctrine of grace, on the contrary, is to show how grace steadfastly maintains a relation between God and His children, wherein we remain persons even as He is a person, and have moral independence even as He has, an independence which we only perfectly achieve, as we attain a perfect trust in our Father, whereby we can serve Him joyously, as love can alone be served, in His children.

An account of the way of the working of God's gracious relation to us, therefore, is just an account of these opposites, which, so long as they are opposed mechanically, are irreconcilable contradictions, and of how love overcomes them by a personal dealing which turns them into the perfect harmony of unbroken peace and unceasing purpose of good. The problem 196 is how to set forth the doctrines of grace, so that salvation shall not be either God's working or our own, or, in part, God's gift, and, in part, our own achievement, but, from its beginning in penitence to its completion in the possession of eternal life, be, all of it, at once of God's giving and of our own achieving, at once of God's working in us the willing and the doing, and of our working out our own salvation with a fear and trembling which is at once a recognition of the reality and the imperfection of our task, and a trust in God's as alone making it perfect and secure.

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