I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.--John 10:10
The life the Lord came to give us is a life exceeding that of the highest undivine man by far more than the life of that man exceeds the life of the least human animal. More and more of that life exists for each who will receive it, and that to eternity.
In a word, Jesus came to supply all our lack--from the root outward. And what we need is more life.
What does the old man need, whose limbs are weak and whose pulse is low, but more of the life which seems ebbing from him? Weary with feebleness, he calls upon death, but in reality it is life he wants. It is but the encroaching death in him that desires death. He longs for rest, but death cannot rest. Death would be as much an end to rest as to weariness. Even weakness cannot rest. It takes strength as well as weariness to rest.
How different is the weariness of the strong man after prolonged labour from the weariness of the sick man who in the morning cries out, "Would God it were evening!" and in the evening, "Would God it were morning!"
Low-sunk life imagines itself weary of life. But it is death, not life, it is weary of. Never a cry went out after the opposite of life from any soul that knew what life is. Why does the poor, worn suicide seek death? Is it not in reality to escape from death--from the death of homelessness and hunger and cold, the death of failure and disappointment and distraction, the death of the exhaustion of passion, the death of crime and fear of discovery, the death of madness--of a household he cannot rule? He seeks the darkness because it seems a refuge from the death which possesses him. He is a creature possessed by death. What he calls his life is but a dream full of horrible phantasms.
More life! is the unconscious prayer of all creation, groaning and travailing for the redemption of its lord, the son who is not yet a son. Can we not read the same silent cry in the faces of some of the animals, in the look in some of the flowers, and in many an aspect of what we call Nature?
All things are possible with God, but all things are not easy. It is easy for him to be, for there he has to do with his own perfect will. It is not easy for him to create--that is, after the grand fashion which alone will satisfy his glorious heart and will, the fashion in which he is now creating us.
In the very nature of being--that is, God--it must be hard (and divine history shows how hard) to create that which shall be not himself, yet like himself. The problem is to separate from himself that which must yet be ever and always and utterly dependent on him, and to separate it sufficiently that it shall have the existence of a free individual. Only so shall it be able to turn and regard him--choose him, and say, "I will arise and go to my Father." Only so shall it develop in itself the highest Divine of which it is capable--the will able to side with the good against the evil, the will to be one with the life whence it has come and in which it still is.
This highest Divine expresses itself as the will to close the round of its procession in its return, so working the perfection of reunion--to shape in its own life the ring of eternity. In doing so it chooses to live immediately, consciously, and active-willingly from its source, from its own very life--to restore to the beginning the end that comes of that beginning--to be the thing the Maker thought of when he willed, before he began to work its being.
I imagine the difficulty of doing this thing, of effecting this creation, this separation from himself such that will in the creature be possible--I imagine, I say, the difficulty of such creation so great that for it God must begin inconceivably far back in the infinitesimal regions of beginnings. I do not say merely before the existence of anything in the least resembling man, but eternal miles beyond the last farthest-pushed discovery in protoplasm. It must have been in infinite beginnings when God set in motion that division from himself which in its grand result should be individuality, consciousness, choice, and conscious choice--choice at last pure because it is the choice of the right, the true, the divinely harmonious.
Hence the final end of the separation is not individuality. That is but a means to it. The final end is oneness--an impossibility without the prior separation. For there can be no unity, no delight of love, no harmony, no good in being, where there is but one. Two at least are needed for oneness. And the greater the number of individuals, the greater, the lovelier, the richer, the diviner is the possible unity.
God is life, and the will-source of life. In the outflowing of that life, I know him. And when I am told that he is love, I see that if he were not love he could not create. I know nothing deeper in him than love. I believe there is nothing in him deeper than love--nay, that there can be anything deeper than love.
The being of God is love, therefore he creates. I imagine that from all eternity he has been creating. As he saw it was not good for man to be alone, so has he never been alone himself. From all eternity the Father has had the Son. And the never-begun existence of that Son I imagine an easy outgoing of the Father's nature. To make other beings, however, beings like us, I imagine the labour of God to be an eternal labour. Speaking after our poor human fashions of thought--the only fashions possible to us--I imagine that God has never been content to be alone even with the Son of his love, the prime and perfect idea of humanity. I imagine that from the first he has willed and laboured to give existence to other creatures who should be blessed with his blessedness--creatures whom he is now and always has been developing into likeness with that Son. It is a likeness seemingly for eons distant and small, but a likeness forever growing. Perhaps never one of them yet, though unspeakably blessed, has had even an approximate idea of the blessedness in store for him.
Man finds it hard to get what he wants because he does not want the best. God finds it hard to give because he would give the best, and man will not take it. What Jesus did was what the Father is always doing. The suffering he endured was that of the Father from the foundation of the world, reaching its climax in the person of his son.
He is always, and has ever been, sacrificing himself to and for his creatures. It lies in the very essence of his creation of them. The worst heresy, next to that of dividing religion and righteousness, is to divide the Father from the Son--in thought or feeling or action or intent, to represent the Son as doing that which the Father does not himself do.
Jesus did nothing but what the Father did and does. If Jesus suffered for men, it was because his father suffers for men. Jesus came close to men, through his body and their senses, that he might bring their spirits close to his father and their father and, by losing what could be lost of his own, so give them life.
He is God our Saviour. It is because God is our Saviour that Jesus is our Saviour. The God and Father of Jesus Christ could never possibly be satisfied with less than giving himself to his own! The unbeliever may easily imagine a better God than the prevailing theology of his culture offers him. But the lovingest heart that ever beat cannot even fathom the length and breadth and depth and height of that love of God which shows itself in his Son--one, and of one mind, with himself. The whole history is a divine agony to give divine life to creatures. The outcome of that agony, the victory of that creative and continually creative energy, will be radiant life, whereof joy unspeakable is the flower. Every child will look into the eyes of the Father, and the eyes of the Father will receive the child with an infinite embrace.
This life exists for all who will receive it. The Father has given to the Son to have life in himself. That life is our light. We know life only as light. It is the life in us that makes us see. All the growth of the Christian is the more and more life he is receiving. At first his religion may hardly be distinguishable from the mere prudent desire to save his soul. But eventually he loses that very soul in the glory of love, and so saves it. Self becomes but the cloud on which the white light of God divides into harmonies unspeakable.
"In the midst of life we are in death," said one. It is more true that in the midst of death we are in life. Life is the only reality. What men call death is but a shadow--a word for that which cannot be, a negation which owes the very idea of itself to that which it would deny. But for life there could be no death. If God did not exist, there would not even be nothing. Not even nothingness preceded life. Nothingness owes its very idea to existence.