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'What is His name? and what is His Son's name? Canst thou tell?' It is God Almighty's great conundrum spoken out of eternity into time; it is the riddle propounded by the Supreme Intelligence to the heart and reason of every man born into the world.
I. 'Canst thou tell?' The history of humanity is little else than one long wrestle with God's infinite conundrum. And there are noble souls and able thinkers who never guess the riddle here, though who can dare to doubt that the solution comes to them hereafter? Never be a giver-up of God's riddles; work at them till you die. The position of a giver-up of God's riddle is dreary and paralysing; it declares that the riddle is unanswerable, and that the name of Him 'who holds the wind in His fists' is unknowable.
Is it unknowable? I believe that every man born into the world possessed once the solution of the riddle, when, 'trailing clouds of glory,' the immortal part 'came from God who is its home' into the prison-house of human birth.
It is a sweet legend of the Talmud that the indentation upon the upper lip of every man born into the world is a mark of the finger of God touching the mouth at birth and saying, 'Child, thou knowest, but thou shalt not be able to reveal that which thou knowest till thou hast learnt it by the things which thou shalt suffer in the infant school of human life'.
II. 'O our God, what is Thy name?' Canst thou tell? There are tens of thousands who can tell. The Divine Man of Nazareth is the Sacrament of God, He is the outward and visible sign of the heart of universal Fatherhood; and to know it with an intense spiritual conviction that is beyond expression is to know the answer to God's riddle about Himself. It is to give Him back the answer: 'We have found out Thy secret'.
No man can force another man to believe it, there is cooperation necessary between his volition and the power of the Holy Spirit; but to believe it is to view the world and its problems from that moment with new eyes. And, moreover, it is to learn a new motive for purity, watchfulness, self-control.
III. But this is not all the riddle. 'What is His name? and what is His Son's name? Canst thou tell?' Thy son's name, O God, is Man; the human family itself, in all ages and in all conditions, the sum total of human flesh and blood, illumined by its heroism, its nobility, its victories, weighted with its crimes, its brutalities, its degradations. O God, alienated humanity may be, but it is Thy son.
And do you not see that here, and here only, is the impregnable foundation of the eternal hope for the race? The inexhaustible and ultimately effectual remedy for human depravity is the central, indwelling, immortal, Divine sonship in man. The Divine spark is inextinguishable. The Jew of old would keep his feet from treading upon a morsel of paper, however soiled, lest the name of Yahveh might be written thereon. Keep thy foot when thou art tempted to trample on thy brother man! The name of thy Father is written on his heart.
But how intensely does this magnificent truth emphasize the obligations of human brotherhood! The 'solidarity of the race' which we talk about so glibly is not a German epigram, but a Divine truth. It is a truth that, in spite of all our glorious assurance, will cause yearning anguish to the heart that realizes it most. Upon such a heart 'the Lord lays the iniquity of all'. Only One so realized the unity of the race of which He was the Archetypal Representative, that every sin and God-defiance in the world thrilled through Him, and it broke His heart far more surely than the soldier's spear.
Archdeacon Wilbeefoece, Sermons Preached in Westminster Abbey, p. 15.
References. XXX. 8. E. H. Eland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. 1901, p. 397. XXX. 8, 9. H. Rix, Sermons, Addresses, and Essays, p. 135. J. J. Ingram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 101. J. M. E. Ross, ibid. vol. lxii. 1902, p. 34. XXX. 24-28. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 324. XXXI. Stopford A. Brooke, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 241. XXXI. 1 . W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 568. XXXI. 10. R. Glover, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891, p. 379. F. Temple, ibid. vol. lvii. 1900, p. 232. XXXI. 10-31. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 571. J. Vickery, Ideals of Life, p. 239. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 288. XXXI. 11. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 191. XXXI. 11, 12. G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 234. XXXI. 12. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 201. XXXI. 13. Ibid. p. 211. XXXI. 14 . Ibid. p.. 220. XXXI. 15. Ibid. p. 228. XXXI. 16. Ibid. p. 237. XXXI. 17. Ibid. p. 245. XXXI. 18. Ibid. pp. 252, 258; see also Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol ii. p. 401. XXXI. 20. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 275. XXXI. 21. Ibid. p. 281. XXXI. 22. Ibid. p. 287. XXXI. 23. Ibid. p. 294. XXXI. 24. Ibid. p. 303. XXXI. 26. Ibid. p. 309. XXXI. 25, 26. C. Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 72. XXXI. 26. A. F. Winnington Ingrain, The After-glow of a Great Reign, p. 48. XXXI. 26. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 317. XXXI. 28. H. C. G. Moule, My Brethren and Companions, p. 81. XXXI. 29. J. H. Hitchins, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 109. H. P. Hughes, ibid. vol. lix. 1901, p. 82. XXXI. 30. G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 122. XXXI. 30, 31. H. Broughton Barnes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 83. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 578. XXXI. 31. G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 410.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 30". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany