SERMON VII.--THE NAME OF GOD
ISAIAH l. 10.
Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his
servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust
in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.
To some persons it may seem strange advice to tell them, that in the
hour of darkness, doubt, and sorrow, they will find no comfort like
that of meditating on the Name of the Ever-blessed Trinity. Yet
there is not a prophet or psalmist of the Old Testament who does not
speak of 'The Name of the Lord,' as a kind of talisman against all
the troubles which can befall the spirit of man. And we, as
Christians, know, or ought to know, far more of God than did even
prophets or psalmists. If they found comfort in the name of God, we
ought to find far more.
But some will say--Yes. Let us think of God, God's mercies, God's
dealings with his people; but why think especially of the Name of the
For this simple reason. That it is by that Name of Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost, that God has revealed himself. That is the name by which
he bids us think of him; and we are more or less disregarding his
commands when we think of him by any other. That is the name which
God has given himself; and, therefore, it is morally certain that
that is God's right name; that it expresses God's very self, God's
very being, as he is.
Theology signifies, the knowledge of God as he is. And it is dying
out among us in these days. Much of what is called theology now is
nothing but experimental religion; which is most important and useful
when it is founded on the right knowledge of God: but which is not
itself theology. For theology begins with God: but experimental
religion, right or wrong, begins with a man's own soul. Therefore it
is that men are unaccustomed to theology. They shrink from it as
something very abstruse, only fit for great scholars and divines, and
almost given up now-a-days even by them. They do not know that
theology, the knowledge of God, is full of practical every-day
comfort, and guidance for their conduct and character; yea, that it
is--so says the Bible--everlasting life itself. Therefore it is that
some shrink from thinking of the Ever-blessed Trinity, not from any
evil intent, but because they are afraid of thinking wrongly, and so
consider it more safe not to think at all. They have been puzzled,
it may be, by arguments which they have heard, or read, or which have
risen up in their own minds, and which have made them doubt about the
Trinity: and they say--I will not torment my soul, and perhaps
endanger my soul, by doubts. I will take the doctrine of the Trinity
for granted, because I am bidden to do so: but I leave what it means
to be explained by wiser men. If I begin thinking about it I shall
only confuse myself. So it is better for me not to think at all.
And one cannot deny that they are right, as far as they go. If they
cannot think about the Trinity without thinking wrongly, it is better
to take on trust what they are told about it. But they lose much by
so doing. They lose the solid and real comfort which they may get by
thinking of the Name of God. And, I believe, they lose it
unnecessarily. I cannot see why they must think wrongly of the
Trinity, if they think at all. I cannot see why they need confuse
themselves. The doctrine of the Trinity is not really an
unreasonable one. The doubts which come into men's minds concerning
it do not seem to me sound and reasonable doubts. For instance, some
say--How can there be three persons in one God? It is contrary to
reason. One cannot be many. Three cannot be one. That is
I think, that if you will use your reason for yourselves, you will
see that it is those words which are unreasonable, and not the
doctrine of the Trinity.
First. A thing need not be unreasonable--that is, contrary to
reason--because it is above and beyond reason--or, at least, beyond
our human reason, which at best (as St. Paul says) sees as in a glass
darkly, and only knows in part.
Consider how many things are beyond reason which are not contrary to
it. I say that all things which God has made are so: but, without
going so far, let us consider these simple examples.
Is it not beyond all reason that among animals, like should bring
forth like? Why does an eagle's egg always produce an eagle, and a
dove's egg a dove, and so forth? No man knows, no man can give any
reason whatsoever. If a dove's egg produced an eagle, ignorant men
would cry out at the wonder, the miracle. Wise men know that the
real wonder, the real miracle is, that a dove's egg always produces a
dove, and not any and every other bird.
Here is a common and notorious fact, entirely above our reason.
There is no cause to be given for it, save that God has ordained it
so. But it is not contrary to our reason. So far from it, we are
certain that a dove will produce a dove; and our reason has found out
much of the laws of kind; and found out that they are reasonable
laws, regular, and to be depended upon; so that we can, as all know,
produce and keep up new breeds whether of plants or of animals.
So that the law of kind, though it is beyond our reason, is not
contrary to our reason at all.
So much for things which have life. Take an equally notorious
example from things which have not life.
Is it not above and beyond all our reason--that the seemingly weakest
thing in the world, the most soft and yielding, the most frail and
vanishing, should be also one of the strongest things in the world?
That is so utterly above reason, that while I say it, it seems to
some of you to be contrary to reason, to be unreasonable and
impossible. It is so above reason, that till two hundred years ago,
no one suspected that it was true. And yet it is strictly true.
What is more soft and yielding, more frail and vanishing, than steam?
And what is stronger than steam? I know nothing. Steam it is which
has lifted up the mountains from the sea into the clouds. Steam it
is which tears to pieces the bowels of the earth with earthquakes and
volcanoes, shaking down cities, rasping the solid rocks into powder,
and scattering them far and wide in dust over the face of the land.
What gives to steam its enormous force is beyond our reason. We do
not know. But so far from being contrary to our reason, we have
learnt that the laws of steam are as reasonable as any other of God's
laws. We can calculate its force, we can make it, use it, and turn
its mighty powers, by reason and science, into our most useful and
obedient slave, till it works ten thousand mills, and sends ten
thousand ships across the sea.
Above reason, I say, but not contrary to reason, is the mighty power
And God, who made all these wonders--and millions of wonders more--
must he not be more wonderful than them all? Must not his being and
essence be above our reason? But need they be, therefore, contrary
to our reason? Not so.
Nevertheless, some will say, How can one be many? How can one be
three? Why not? Two are one in you, and every man. Your body is
you, and your soul is you. They are two. But you know yourself that
you are one being; that the Athanasian Creed speaks, at least, reason
when it says, 'As the reasonable soul and the flesh are one man, so
God and man is one Christ.'
And three are one in every plant in the field. Root, bark, leaves,
are three. And yet--they are one tree; and if you take away any one
of them, the tree will die. So it is in all nature. But why do I
talk of a tree, or any other example? Wherever you look you find
that one thing is many things, and many things one. So far from that
fact being contrary to our reason, it is one which our reason (as
soon as we think deeply about this world) assures us is most common.
Of every organized body it is strictly true, that it is many things,
bound together by a certain law, which makes them one thing and no
more. And, therefore, every organized body is a mystery, and above
reason: but its organization is none the less true for that.
And there are philosophers who will tell you--and wisely and well--
that there must needs be some such mystery in God; that reason ought
to teach us--even if revelation had not--two things. First, that God
must be one; and next, that God must be many--that is, more than one.
Do I mean that our own reason would have found out for itself the
mystery of the ever-blessed Trinity? God forbid! Nothing less.
There surely is a difference between knowing that a thing must be,
and knowing that the thing is, and what it is like; and there surely
is a difference between knowing that there is a great mystery and
wonder in God, and knowing what that mystery is.
Man might have found out that God was one, and yet more than one; but
could he have found out what is the essence and character of God?
Not his own reason, but the Spirit of God it is which tells him that:
tells him that God is Three in One--that these three are persons--
that these persons are, a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit.
This is what God has himself condescended to tell us; and therefore
this is what he specially wishes us to believe and remember when we
think of him. This is God's name for himself--Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost. Man may give God what name he chooses. God's own name, which
he has given himself, is likely surely to be the most correct: at
least, it is the one of which God means us to think; for it is the
one into which he commanded us to be baptized. Remember that,
whenever you hear discourse concerning God; and if any man, however
learned, says that God is absolute, answer--'It may be so: but I was
not baptized into the name of the absolute.' If he tell you, God is
infinite, answer--'It may be so: but I was not baptized into the
name of the infinite.' If he tell you, God is the first cause,
answer--'That I doubt not: but I was not baptized into the name of
the first cause. I was baptized into the name which God has given
himself--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and I will give him no other
name, and think of him by no other name, lest I be committing an act
of irreverence toward God, by presuming to call him one thing, when
he has bid me call him another. Absolute, infinite, first cause, and
so forth, are deep words: but they are words of man's invention, and
words too which plain, hard-working, hard-sorrowing folks do not
understand; even if learned men do--which I doubt very much indeed:
and therefore I do not trust them, cannot find comfort for my soul in
them. But Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are words which plain, hard-
working, hard-sorrowing men can understand, and can trust, and can
find comfort in them; for they are God's own words, and, like all
God's words, go straight home to the hearts of men--straight home to
the heart of every one who is a father or mother--to the heart of
every one who has a parent or a child--to the heart of every one who
has the Holy Spirit of God putting into his mind good desires, and
striving to make him bring them into good effect, and be, what he
knows he should be, a holy and good man.'
Answer thus, my friends. And think thus of the mystery of the Ever-
blessed Trinity. For this is a thoroughly reasonable plan of
thought: and more--in thinking thus you will find comfort, guidance,
clearness of head, and clearness of conscience also. Only remember
what you are to think of. You are not to think merely of the mystery
of the question, and to puzzle yourselves with arguments as to how
the Three Persons are one; for that is not to think of the Ever-
blessed Trinity, but only to think about it. Still less are you to
think of the Ever-blessed Trinity under names of philosophy which God
has not given to himself; for that is not to think of the Ever-
blessed Trinity at all. You must think of the Ever-blessed Trinity
as he is,--of a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit; and to think of him
the more earnestly, the more you are sad at heart. It may be that
God has sent that sadness to make you think of him. It may be that
God has cut the very ground from under your feet that you may rest on
him, the true and only ground of all created things; as it is
written: 'Who is he among you who walketh in darkness and hath no
light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his
Some will tell you, that if you are sorrowful it is a time for self-
examination, and for thinking of your own soul. I answer--In good
time, but not yet. Think first of God; for how can you ever know
anything rightly about your own soul unless you first know rightly
concerning God, in whom your soul lives, and moves, and has its
Others may tell you to think of God's dealings with his people. I
answer--In good time, but not yet; think first of God. For how can
you rightly understand God's dealings, unless you first rightly
understand who God is, and what his character is? Right notions
concerning your own soul, right notions concerning God's dealings,
can only come from right notions concerning God himself. He is
before all things. Think of him before all things. He is the first,
and he is the last. Think of him first in this life, and so you will
think of him last, and for ever in the life to come. Think of the
Father, that he is a Father indeed, in spirit and in truth. Think of
the Son, that he is a Son indeed, in spirit and in truth. Think of
the Holy Spirit, that he is a Holy Spirit indeed, in spirit and in
truth. So you will be thinking indeed of the Ever-blessed Trinity;
and will worship God, not with your lips or your thoughts merely, but
in spirit and in truth. Think of the Father, that he is the Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the perfect Son must be forever
perfectly like the perfect Father. For then you will believe that
God the Father looks on you, and feels for you, exactly as does Jesus
Christ your Lord; then you will feel that he is a Father indeed; and
will enter more and more into the unspeakable comfort of that word of
all words, 'Our Father who art in heaven.'
Think of the Lord Jesus Christ as the perfect Son, who, though he is
co-equal and co-eternal with his Father, yet came not to do his own
will, but his Father's; who instead of struggling, instead of helping
himself, cried in his agony: 'Not my will, but thine be done;' and
conquered by resignation. So you will enter into the unspeakable
comfort of conquering by resignation, as you see that your
resignation is to be like the resignation of Christ; not that of
trembling fear like a condemned criminal before a judge; not that of
sullen necessity, like a slave before his master: but that of the
only-begotten Son of God; the resignation of a child to the will of a
father whom he can utterly trust, because that father's name is love.
Think of the Holy Spirit as a person; having a will of his own; who
breatheth whither he listeth, and cannot be confined to any feelings
or rules of yours, or of any man's; but may meet you in the
Sacraments, or out of the Sacraments, even as he will; and has
methods of comforting and educating you, of which you will never
dream; one whose will is the same as the will of the Father and of
the Son, even a good will; just as his character is the same as the
character of the Father and of the Son: even love which works by
holiness; love which you can trust utterly, for yourself and for all
whom you love.
Think, I say, of God himself as he is; think of his name, by which he
has revealed himself, and thus you will--But who am I, to pretend to
tell you what you will learn by thinking rightly of Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost? How can I dare to say how much you will or will not
learn? How can I put bounds to God's teaching? to the workings of
him who has said, 'If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my
Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode
with him'? How can I tell you in a few words of one sermon all that
that means? How can I, or any man, know all that that means? Who is
one man, or all men, to exhaust the riches of the glory of God, or
the blessings which may come from thinking of God's glory? Let it be
enough for us to be sure that truly to know God is everlasting life;
and that the more we think of God by his own revealed name of Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost, the more we shall enter, now and hereafter, into
eternal life, and into the peace which comes by the true knowledge of
him in whom we live, and move, and have our being.