“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
HOW different is God’s method from man’s! The creature works from day to night, his best is first; but darkness overshadows his fairest hopes and best-concerted schemes. The Creator’s days begin with the preceding eve. He reckons the evenings and nights into the days, because out of them the day is born; they usher in the light, and recreate body and brain for the busy hours that follow.
Art thou disappointed in Christian work?— Remember that God wrought on through long dark ages, ere His schemes were evolved in order and beauty. Human schemes begin with blare of trumpet and roll of drum, but are soon plunged in darkness. The heavenly seed is sown in autumn shadows; the foundation-stone of redemption was laid amid the gloom of Calvary; the work that lasts generally begins amid disappointment, difficulty, and heart-break, but inevitably passes into the day.
Art thou passing through the bitterness of soul-trouble?— For weeks there has been no ray of comfort, no sign of deliverance. Yet every dark hour is hastening toward the dawn. Thou shalt see thy Beloved walking toward thee in the morning light.
Art thou in despair for the worm?— The times are dark, and threaten to get darker. But if the first creation began in the dark, can it be wondered at that the second must begin there to? But as the one emerged in daylight, so shall the other. The morning cometh; see the star of day standing sentry! Time, is bearing us to a day that shall never go down to night, but shall mount ever toward its meridian.
“And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”
THUS God started man in an ideal home. Memories of Eden, exquisite as dreams, weave the background of human life.
Fellowship with the Creator, who walked its glades; its river, trees, and fruits; its blessed companionship; its light and ennobling toils— how fair the picture!
The Garden of Eden: That was God’s ideal. When men point thee to the scars on the world’s face, left by the trail of the Arab slaver, the march of the army, the decaying glory of human civilization, and ask how such things are consistent with God’s love, point to that garden and say, “That is what the love of God meant for man; Satan and sin have wrought this.”
The Garden of Gethsemane: When man forfeited Paradise, the Saviour was revealed to regain it. He trod the winepress alone in the shadowed garden of the olive trees, that through its glades He might pass to His cross, and so make the wastes of sin bloom again as Eden. Is it wonderful that another Paradise is possible, when He sowed its seeds and watered the soil with His blood?
Turning wastes into gardens: In Eden man wrought as God’s fellow worker; and we are called each day to do something toward reconstructing the Lost Paradise. Find thy part in delving, sowing, watering, or tending the tender shoots! Seek that thine heart should be an Eden, kept sacred for thy King, and endeavour thy best to plant gardens where hitherto sand-wastes and thorn, thickets have prevailed. Then, “instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isa 55:13)
“And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?”
THE cool of the day, when the breeze steals over the fevered landscape, is an appropriate time for man to hold fellowship with God. We need to have His hand laid on our throbbing temples, stilling, tranquillizing, shedding His serenity throughout our being.
What the breath of evening is in summer, fellowship with God will be for thee, my soul; see that thou art not so absorbed with thy sins, thy love, or thy business, as to miss the tryst, when the sun is setting.
God misses His child. That hour of fellowship was much to Adam, and it was more to God. Love, God’s love, craves for fellowship. As the musician for his lute, as the hart for the brook, as the mother for the twining arms and babbling talk of her child—so does God long for the free outpourings of His child’s heart in prayer; misses them when withheld; is jealous when they are fitful and intermittent.
God seeks His child. He did not wait till Adam found his way back to His side. But He hastened in search of him. So through the glades He comes to seek thee, O truant one! Where art thou, that for these many days thou hast withheld thyself from the hour of prayer?
Wilt thou not say with the psalmist, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek?” (Ps 27:8)
God mourns over His child. These words, in one version, are rendered, Alas, for thee: as though the heart of God were wrung with sorrow for our loss, as well as His. But He does not content Himself with regret. By the pang of travail, by the prick of thorns, by the necessity of labour, by sacrifice and gifts of covering for our nakedness, He brings us back to Himself.
“And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”
THE first question God puts to the soul is, “Adam, where art thou?” The next, “Where is Abel thy brother?” We are our brothers’ keepers. Each within our reach, all who need our help, all related to us by the ties of the family, have a claim on us. We must not take an advantage over them; their weakness and need are strong claims on our resources of every kind; we are bound to keep them so far as we can; we may at any moment be called to give an account of their whereabouts. To dispute this is to betray the spirit of Cain, who was a murderer.
God keeps an inventory of His saints. In His book their names are written. Their names, abode and circumstances; their fathers, mothers and brothers; their occupation, whether they keep the sheep or till the land: all are known to Him, because they are fixed by His providence. Whatever touches them is, therefore, instantly known to Him. It is as though they were part of His very being, and a stab of pain to them thrills His heart.
God calls us to help Him in keeping one another. We are to watch for each other’s souls; to consider one another to provoke to good works; to bear one another’s burden; to exhort each other, to convert the wanderer from the path of the destroyer, and to wash stains from his feet. The cure of souls is the work of all the saints.
But this is only possible to those who have been baptized into the Spirit of Christ. Remember that you have just as much love toward God, as you are willing to show toward the brother whom you have seen. “This commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21)
“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”
WHAT an epitaph on this ancient saint! It is as clear-cut today as when first recorded here. We know nothing of Enoch but this brief record; but it tells us everything. It was not an act or a number of acts, but a high tone of life constantly maintained. Better to walk with God every day in calm, unbroken fellowship, than to have occasional rapturous experiences, succeeded by long relapses and backslidings. The Hebrew word might be rendered, “Enoch walked, and continued to walk.”
Be sure to go God’s Way. He will not walk with thee in thy way, but thou mayest walk with Him in His. To this He calls thee. Each moment, and especially when two or three roads diverge, look up to Him, and say, “Which way art Thou taking, that I may accompany Thee?” It will not be so hard to forsake inviting paths and engaging companions, if only the eye is kept fixed on His face, and the track of His footsteps determines thy road beyond hesitation or dispute.
Be sure to keep God’s Pace. Do not run impetuously before Him; learn to wait His time: the minute-hand as well as the hour-hand must point the exact moment for action. Do not loiter behind in indolence or sloth. Be loyal and true to His ideals, and quick to obey His least commands.
Be sure to wear God’s Livery. He is in the light; the light is His chosen symbol; it ill becomes thee to wear the unfruitful works of darkness. Put them off, and put on the armour of light. Walk with Him daily in stainless robes, washed in the blood of the Lamb. Then thy fellowship shall be with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and with all holy souls everywhere.
“These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.”
THE eyes of God went to and fro over the ancient world, where sin reigned unchecked, to discover one grateful spectacle. But they were doomed to disappointment, till they lighted on Noah. He found grace in the eyes of the Lord, because he only had God seen to be righteous in all his generation. Like Antipas, he dwelt where Satan’s seat was, held fast the Divine name, and was God’s faithful witness. Be thou loyal to God, my soul, though thou stand alone.
There are three characteristics in the man who finds grace in the eyes of the Lord.
In himself he is Just. Not faultless, as judged by the white light of eternity; but blameless, so far as his own consciousness is concerned. He wears ever the white flower of a blameless life.
His strength is as the strength of ten, because his heart is pure.
He exercises himself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and man. This condition is only possible to faith that opens the door of the heart to receive the life of God. Wouldst thou be just, welcome that Just One. Let Him live within thee.
Toward man he is Upright. He does not keep his eyes bowing down to the ground in shame, or furtively looking around to gain a secret advantage; he looks the whole world in the face. His eyes reflect the integrity and purity of his soul; they beam with sincerity, unselfishness and love.
With respect to God, he abides in Perpetual Fellowship. This was worth our getting, though we parted with all our jewels to win it. To be tuned into one deep accord with the Divine nature; to answer to Him with one full, responsive chord; to be always found where God is, and never where He is not—that was life indeed.
“There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.”
THIS is the secret of a holy and blessed Life. Most of our sorrows and disappointments have come on us because we have chosen our own path, and done according to our own will.
In obeying, we must sometimes walk in the dark. When Noah began to walk with God, he knew not that it would lead him into collision with his generation, with the suggestions of common sense and experience, and with much that he held dear as life. But walking on each day, he grew strong to trust in the bare word of his Almighty Guide, and grasped it as men in the catacombs will keep their hand on a tiny string or cord, until the first streak of daylight appear. Obey absolutely the voice that speaks in thy heart; the way is dark, but it is the way.
In obeying, we must learn to wait. For one hundred and twenty years the long-suffering of God waited, and during that weary period this true heart failed not. Then for seven days the patriarch waited within the closed doors. It is not easy to bear the long strain of endurance. To rush into the battle, to do something desperate, to strike for liberty—this is the choice of the flesh; but to live in hourly fear, to toil on without result, to see the years stealing away the bank or shoal on which our heart had erected its structures of hope—this is hardest of all, unless our hope is anchored beyond life’s ebb and swell.
In obeying God others obey us. How came it that these creeping things and flying fowls, these living creatures, clean and unclean, entered the Ark so tamely and submissively? Surely a Divine constraint was upon them. When we are under authority, we can say, “Go,” “Come,” “Do this.” All things serve the man who serves the Divine Master, Christ.