But now a difficulty arises. Christ’s doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood is, without doubt, fundamental; but is it true? A God who clothes the blowing lilies with their silent beauty, without whom no sparrow falleth to the ground, who numbers the very hairs of our head—it is a glorious faith, if one could but receive it. But can we? It was possible once, we think, in the childhood of the world; but that time has gone, and we are the children of a new day, whose thoughts we cannot choose but think. So long as men thought of our earth as the centre of the universe, it was not difficult to believe that its inhabitants were the peculiar care of their Creator. But astronomy has changed all that; and what once we thought so great, we know now to be but a speck amid infinite systems of worlds. The old question challenges us with a force the Psalmist could not feel: “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou are mindful of him? and the son of man that Thou visitest him?” The infinity of God, the nothingness of man: the poor brain reels before the contrast. Is it thinkable, we ask, that He whose dwelling-place is eternity should care for us even as we care for our children? So the question is often urged upon us to-day. But arguments of this kind, it has been well said, are simply an attempt to terrorize the imagination, and are not to be yielded to. As a recent writer admirably says: “We know little or nothing of the rest of the universe, and it may very well be that in no other planet but this is there intelligent and moral life; and, if that be so, then this world, despite its material insignificance, would remain the real summit of creation. But even if this be not so, still man remains man—a spiritual being, capable of knowing, loving, and glorifying God. Man is that, be there what myriads of worlds there may, and is not less than that, though in other worlds were also beings like him.... No conception of God is less imposing than that which represents Him as a kind of millionaire in worlds, so materialized by the immensity of His possessions as to have lost the sense of the incalculably greater worth of the spiritual interests of even the smallest part of them."
But this is not the only difficulty; for some it is not the chief difficulty. We have no theories of God and the universe which bar the possibility of His intervention in the little lives of men. There is nothing incredible to us in the doctrine of a particular Providence. But where, we ask, is the proof of it? We would fain believe, but the facts of experience seem too strong for us. A hundred thousand Armenians butchered at the will of an inhuman despot, a whole city buried under a volcano’s fiery hail, countless multitudes suffering the slow torture of death by famine—can such things be and God really care? Nor is it only great world tragedies like these which challenge our faith. The question is pressed upon us, often with sickening keenness, by the commonplace ills of our own commonplace lives: the cruel wrong of another’s sin, the long, wasting pain, the empty cradle, the broken heart. How can we look on these things and yet believe that Eternal Love is on the throne?