By John Lincoln Brandt
Download Audio (10.1MB)
“In the beginning, God.”—Genesis 1:1
The sentence, “In the beginning, God,” stands like an archway at the beginning of the universe. In the beginning of heaven, God; in the beginning of the earth, God; in the beginning of time, God; in the beginning of man, God; in the beginning of the Bible, God; in the beginning of salvation, God.
Looking back at the universe to the time when the chaotic mists hung across the morning of creation, we see streaking their silvery summits that infinite word, “God.” Looking above us at the stars of the heavens, and contemplating their number and magnitude, and the power that created and sustains them, we think of “God.” Looking forward into the infinite future, toward which all are traveling, we meet with “God.”
The idea of God is the center of the spiritual universe. It is the focal point of human thought. It is the answer to the soul’s thirst. It is the universal prayer. It is the greatest idea in the world. It is the idea that overwhelms us; that humbles us; that exalts us, that saves us; that inspires us, and that makes us believe in our immortality. It is the keynote to religious progress.
Sooner or later every person will rise or fall according to his or her conception of God. The idea of God has been an inspiration to every noble service and has marched the good and great in their acts of kindness and philanthropy.
Unfortunately, our God has been depicted in a light that is neither attractive nor designed to constrain us to love him. In Art he is too frequently represented as being seated in a rigid and formal manner upon a straight-backed chair, with eyes gazing into space, with a crown upon his head, with his feet resting upon a globe as if to make him the terrible ruler of the earth.
In Science, he has too frequently been represented not as a person—not as a Father, with a heart to love, not with ears to hear the cries of his children, not with lips to pardon our sins, not with eyes to look tenderly upon our misgivings—but as something that is unreal and intangible, and with no personality.
In Philosophy he is too frequently represented as having created the world, and then leaving it to its own devices; leaving it to go whirling through space in obedience to the laws of Nature; leaving the race without hope, without prayer, without permission to approach the throne of grace.
In Pantheism, God is made identical with the universe—therefore, he is a flower, or a stone, or a tree, or light, or heat, or earth, or heavens, or the aggregate of all these; a God without thought and emotion; a God without tenderness and love; a God without interest in the affairs of men.
In History, he has frequently been represented as a conquering King, ruling the people by his iron will; as a Judge, executing the laws; as a Master subjugating his slaves; a God whose wrath must be appeased and whose favor must be won by the offering of sacrifices.
But we rejoice that in Christ we have a new conception of God. Jesus taught us to say, “Our Father.” It was the enunciation of the great truth of the universal Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Neither Art, nor Science, nor Philosophy, nor Pantheism, nor History had taught such a comprehensive view of our God. It is a new idea of God that came through the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ; an idea of God that brings together in one family all that dwell upon the face of the earth; an idea that levels all castes and ranks of men; an idea that brings peace and good-will to men; an idea that binds all races and colors together in one common bond of sympathy; an idea that saint and sinner, bond and free, Greek and Barbarian, may accept with all heart and soul.
We love to entertain this idea of God. We may apprehend this idea of “Our Father,” though not be able to comprehend the fullness of its meaning. The Bible assumes that God exists, and that every man’s conscience is a witness to that fact; with this idea in view, we love to think of God as being in the world and the world belonging to him, and that in him we live, and move and have our being.1
Satan has been in the world and claimed it and ruled it as the prince of the powers of darkness. He laid claim to it when he led Jesus up into the Mount and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and offered them to him if he would bow down and worship him; but we rejoice that the power of Satan has been broken, and people have turned from Satan unto God. Great conquerors have been in the world and endeavored to govern it. Men of wealth have tried to buy it; monopolists have attempted to monopolize it; kings have endeavored to rule it; but every effort to control the earth has been such a failure that the inscription could be written over the hearts of the usurpers that is written over the door of the Royal Exchange of London: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
God is in the world as its Creator. The Scriptures tell us that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” “Thou hast made the heaven of heavens, with all their hosts, the earth with all things thereon, the seas and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all.”2 “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place and hangeth the earth upon nothing.”3
“He hath made everything beautiful in its time.”4 “The Spirit of the Lord hath made me; the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”5 “It is he that made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”6 “He giveth to all life and breath and all things, and hath made of one blood all nations to dwell upon the face of the earth and hath the times afore appointed and the bounds of their habitations.”7
There is design in Nature, and design presupposes a designer. A ship presupposes a ship-builder; a watch a watch-maker; a world a world-designer and world-maker. A world-designer is a thinker, and that Thinker is God—the Creator of the universe. Man has made wonderful things; great are the beauties of art and wonders of science, and yet, notwithstanding all their beauty and finish, there is not one of them that can equal the delicacy of the little flower or surpass the beauty of the gorgeous sunset, or the grandeur of the star-gemmed heavens. Not even the greatest of God’s children, though he be taxed to the utmost—though his life depended upon it—could make a blade of grass. God is in the harmony, law, order, intelligence, design, relation of cause to effect, adaptation of means to an end and purpose of all Nature.
Therefore, let us sum up the whole matter and hear the conclusion of the whole discussion: Our God is great, holy, wise, good, powerful and merciful. He is in the world in its creation, preservation, history and redemption. Are you prepared to meet your God? If not, I entreat you, by his love and mercy, prepare to meet him. Make ready while you have the opportunity; accept the invitation while it is being given; obey his will and consecrate yourself, body, soul, and spirit, to his service today!
John Lincoln Brandt (1860–1946) was the father of Virginia Brandt Berg. Excerpted from Soul Saving Revival Sermons, originally published in 1907.
Read by Simon Peterson.