Created For The Creator
H.P. Liddon, M.A.
Editor's Note: The following paper is excerpted from a sermon "God and the Soul" preached by Canon H.P. Liddon at St Mary's Church, Oxford, England. on October 25.1868. Canon Liddon was Vicar at St Paul's Cathedral London which he filled with his inspired preaching for many years.
Among the many truths which the Supreme Being has disclosed to us men about Himself, there are two which, beyond others, are peculiarly calculated to enable us to realize our real relation towards Him. The first, the truth that God is our Creator. The second, the truth that He has made us for Himself and is Himself the end and the explanation of our existence.
We are in possession of that blessed and awful gift which we name "life." We find ourselves endowed with an understanding capable of knowledge, and with a heart formed for love. But how come it that we do thus exist? The idea of blind "chance," we know, is not less proscribed bv science than by faith. We cannot ascribe personal and self-dependent existence to those uniform modes of working which we observe in the physical universe. If within the narrow limits of our observation they seem to be invariable, they witness not to any objective force resident in "nature," but merely to that presiding law of order which characterizes the action no less than the Being of the real Agent. Each of us is a separate product of the mystery of creation. After the Being of God Himself creation is perhaps the greatest as it is in time the first of mysteries; it is, it must be ever, the master-difficulty for the mind of man.. innovation on what had already been for an eternity, new companionship of dependent beings . . . summoned into His Presence by the Solitary. Self- sufficing, Ever-blessed God, is a marvel which may welt prepare the soul, even for belief in the Divine Incarnation. Yet if God did not create alt that is not Himself, if in the essential simplicity of His Being He is not utterly distinct from His creation, if in creation He was not a free and conscious agent, if He did not at the first give being to that which before was nothing - mark it well my brethren - He is not a Being Whom you can worship as your God. Belief in creation is an integral part of belief in God: and He who made the universe made each one of us. "Thine Hands have made me and fashioned me .
Thine Eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect and in Thy book were all my members written, which day by day were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 119:73, Psalm 139:161."...
You may read in the face of many a man whom you meet in the street that he has never faced the truth that he is a created thing, and that One Being exists to whom he owes literally all that he has and is. The warning of the Psalmist, that it is God Who hath made us and not we ourselves (Psalm 100:3), is not superfluous.. . We unconsciously limit our range of view because we fear the practical consequences of too wide and perfect a vision. We speak, and think, and form judgments, as if we were the authors of our own existence . . because we shrink from facing all that is involved in the alternative, namely, that we are products of the creative love and will of our God.
Certainly God did not need anyone of us: we were not indispensable to His happiness or His glory. He can have foreseen nothing in such as we are which forced Him to create us. Why did He then draw us out of that abyss of nothing? Why did He place us at the summit of the visible creation rather than at its base?. . The answer is to be found in a revelation to (Jeremiah), upon which he fell back as the shadows of approaching ruin darkened around him. "I have loved thee," God had said of old to Israel, "with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3)." And St. Paul teaches that the Father hath chosen us Christians in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephes. 1:4). And to this self-same love alone we individually owe our existence. . . . His purpose to give us life was, like Himself, eternal. And now that we live He preserves our life from moment to moment. . did He for one moment withdraw His hand our being must dissolve, and fade away into that nothingness out of which He has taken it.
This is one of the cardinal truths which interpenetrates the whole mind of the Old Testament.
But this involves an admission with the most direct bearing upon life and conduct. As the Creator, God must have rights over the creature. These rights are more imperious and urgent than those of a sovereign over his subjects, or of a parent over his children, or of an artist over his work. As the Apostle's question reminds the factious teachers at Corinth, we have literally nothing which we have not received (I Cor. 4:?). We simply belong to God. We are His property. . We can retire into no depth or centre of thought and being where we do not meet Him, or where we can meet Him on equal terms. Such indeed are God's rights over us, that He Himself cannot waive them. He need not have created us, but having created us, He must needs claim us as His property. He cannot authorize us to live for any but Himself. Nothing can happen to suspend His claim. We originally belong to God, and all human rights over us must be strictly subordinated to, as flowing from, His ownership and His supremacy. As all that we are comes from Him, so we belong to Him without exception or reserve...
Human rights perish at death. But God's claims, which begin in time, continue in eternity: the grave does not touch them. Escape Him we cannot. We must live under a dispensation of His love or a dispensation of His justice. We can nowhere be independent of Him. We may now and here choose between a free and joyous service, and a punishment which is as certain and as enduring as the being which He has given us. These rights of God over His creatures. . . are confessed by the Church alike on earth and in heaven. "0 come let us worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord, our Maker (Psalm 95:6)." "Thou are worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power, for Thou has created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created (Rev. 4:11)."
In the truth that God has created us, we see much of the meaning of the Psalmist's words. He has created us for himself. That which would be selfishness in a creature, is in the great Creator a necessary result of His solitary perfection. "The Lord hath made all things for Himself (Prov. 16:4)." He could not have done otherwise: He could not abdicate that place which belongs to Him as God. It is equally true of the highest of the Intelligences of heaven, and of the least and lowest forms of animal, or vegetable, or mineral existence, that they are made for God. . . they. . . yield the tribute of an absolute homage to the One End of all created life. Nor was it to have been otherwise with man in the design of his Creator. But. . God willed to be the object of a conscious and deliberate choice on the part of the gifted creature whom He placed at the summit of the visible creation. Yet man would not have been free to choose his Maker as his end and portion, unless he had been also free to reject Him. We know how God's generous bounty was first abused.
Yet we have but to look within ourselves to trace without doubt or misgiving the true law of that life which God has given us. By gathering up the scattered fragments of the shattered statue. we can recover, if not the perfect work itself, at least the ideal which was before the Eye of the Artist Why then does the human intellect crave perpetually for new fields of knowledge? It was made to apprehend an Infinite Being; it was made for God. Why does the human heart disclose, when we probe it, such inexhaustible capacities for love, and tenderness, and self-sacrifice? It was made to correspond to a love that had neither stint nor limit it was made for God. Why does no employment no success, no scene or field of thought, no culture of power or faculty, no love of friend or relative, arrest definitely and for all time the onward, craving, restless impulse of our inner being? No other explanation is so simple, as that we were made for the Infinite and Unchangeable God, compared with Whom all else is imperfect, fragile, transient and unsatisfying. All that is not God is vanity, in that it yields no true response to the deep and irrepressible cravings of the soul of man (see Ecclesiastes). St. Augustine tells us that (nothing) could satisfy a soul, made for Himself by the Great Creator, and never utterly insensible to the true secret of its destiny: "Thou hast made us for Thyself and our heart is restless till it rests in Thee (Confessions 1,11."
The knowledge, and love, and service of our Maker is not, like the indulgence of a sentiment or a taste, a matter of choice. For every man who looks God and life steadily in the face, it is a stern necessity. We can do without large incomes, and a high social position, and a name among men. Length of days, and health of body and elasticity of mind are great blessings, yet they may be dispensed with. But once born, we must serve God. Not to serve God, is to be in the moral world that which a deformity or monster is in the world of animal existence. It is not only to defy the claims of God. It is to ignore the plain demands of our inner being, to do violence to the highest guidance of our mysterious and complex life. We may fearlessly say that we men are of too high a lineage to give the strength of our thoughts and hearts to any beneath the throne of Him Who made us....
We can only glorify God by yielding ourselves to Him. No other conduct on our part does justice to His claims. We can only become holy by giving ourselves up to Him Only when we have sincerely given ourselves to the Holy God does the moral teaching of the Gospel justify itself in detail to our inmost conscience, as the serious exhibition of what a creature should be beneath the eve of his Creator . Only when we have presented ourselves unreservedly to God as a living sacrifice, can we taste the joy of an untroubled conscience, and of a true inward peace of soul, and of a moral assurance of salvation, through His most precious death, Who makes our self-oblation an acceptable reality. In short, only when by a real moral act we have restored to God the freedom which He has given us, do we enter even distantly into the full meaning of the Psalmist's words, "0 God, Thou art my God (Psalm 63:1)."