“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”
“LEARN of Me,” (Matthew 11:29) said the Master: and indeed there is no teacher like Him; no school like His. We stand at the door of the school-house, saying, “What I know not, teach Thou me;” and He does not hesitate to undertake our case. But there are several points of difference from our methods. In Christ’s school there is but one Master for all the scholars, and they all learn from the same books; the pupils begin with the upper classes and end with the lowest; and those that are most proficient, and have been longest under His tuition, are most conscious of their ignorance.
There are no holidays; but every day is a holy day. The school never breaks up; but the students leave it for Home, and the prizes are sent after them, and given when they arrive.
We need more than personal instruction; we are travelling through an unknown land, and require direction for the way. This also is guaranteed; but not as in the cases of tourists, who extract all information from their friends before they start from home, as to the places they are about to visit. Our Guide accompanies us. He counsels us with His eye upon us, detecting every pitfall and chasm, and warning us; perhaps even guiding us by the movement of His eye.
How greatly then are we in need of the quickened sense! The eye fixed on His eye; the ear open to His slightest whisper; the foot quick to place itself down in His footprints. The horse and mule need bit and bridle; but it is enough for us if the heart fears to miss the least indication of the Master’s will. Be willing to know; it then becomes His part to make thee know somehow. If not in one way, then in another.
“He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.”
THE Psalmist means that there is no spot in it where the traces and footprints of God’s love may not be discerned, if only the eyes and the heart are opened. Just as every corner of a room which faces the south is filled with the morning sunlight, unless artificial and violent means are adopted to keep it out, so every part of human life is full of God’s lovingkindness, unless it is blocked out by sin. You think that your lot is absolutely destitute of God’s lovingkindness; but may not your eyes be blinded? May there not be more than you suppose? May you not be so occupied with the one irksome thing in it as to be oblivious to ten thousand marks of tender compassion and unobtrusive mercy?
Your chamber is very bare and comfortless; but it is part of the earth, and it is therefore full of God’s lovingkindness: look around for it. Your home seems uncongenial and trying; but it must be full to the brim of lovingkindness. Your daily life is hard and difficult; but there is as much lovingkindness in it as if it were easy and prosperous. There is indeed more lovingkindness in these trying and difficult surroundings than in happier ones. It costs God more to give us pain. We need more love, and we get it. We should rejoice in it if our eyes were opened.
The loveless heart can detect nothing but disappointment and unkindness. But the heart that loves, and sings, and rejoices in the Lord, detects the evident tokens of God’s love; just as the child of nature knows when friend or foe has passed through the forest-glade, by indications which would be unintelligible to our unpracticed eye. Echo always answers in the same key in which we address her!
“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”
WHAT broke your heart? Unkindness? Desertion?
Unfaithfulness on the part of those you trusted? Or did you attempt to do something which was beyond your power, and in the effort, the heartstrings snapped? A bird with a broken wing, an animal with a broken leg, a woman with a broken heart, a man with a broken purpose in his life — these seem to drop out of the main current of life into shadow. They go apart to suffer and droop. The busy rush of life goes on without them. But God draws nigh. The Great Lover of man is always at the best when the lights burn low and dim in the house of life. He always comes to us then. He shall sit as the Refiner.
Where do you see love perfected? Not between the father and his stalwart son who counts himself independent, or between the mother and the girl in whom love is awakening in its first faint blush: but where the crippled child of eleven years lies in the truckle-bed, pale and wan, unable to help herself. There the noblest fruits of love ripen and yield refreshment. The father draws nigh to the little sufferer, so soon as he gets home at night, and the mother is nigh all the time to sympathize and comfort and minister. So brokenness attracts God. It is dark; you think yourself deserted; but it is not so. God is there — He is nigh; call to Him — a whisper will bring a response.
“There, little one, don’t cry;
They have broken your heart, I know And the rainbow gleams
Of your youthful dreams
Are things of the long ago;
But heaven holds all for which you sigh— There, little one, don’t cry.”
“For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.”
A SIGNIFICANT title for the saints, which has been adopted at least by one great religious body. In every age God has had his quiet ones. Retired from its noise and strife, withdrawn from its ambitions and jealousies, unshaken by its alarms; because they had entered into the secret of a life hidden in God. We must have an outlet for the energies of our nature. If we are unfamiliar with the hidden depths of eternal life, we shall necessarily live a busy, fussy, frothy, ambitious, eager life, in contact with men and things. But the man who is intense on the eternal, can be quiet in the temporal.
The man whose house is shallow, but one room in depth, cannot help living on the street. But directly we begin to dwell deep — deep in God, deep in the watch for the Master’s advent, deep in considering the mysteries of the kingdom, we become quiet. We fill our little space; we get our daily bread and are content; we enjoy natural and simple pleasures; we do not strive, nor cry, nor cause our voice to be heard in the street; we pass through the world, with noiseless tread, dropping a blessing on all we meet; but we are no sooner recognized than we are gone.
Get quiet, beloved soul; tell out thy sorrow and complaint to God. Let not the greatest business or pressure divert thee from God.
When men rage about thee, go and tell Jesus. When storms are high, hide thee in His secret place. When others compete for fame and applause, and their passion might infect thee, get into thy closet, and shut thy door, and quiet thyself as a weaned babe. For if thy voice is quiet to man, let it never cease to speak loudly and mightily for man in the ear of God. Oh to be a Quietist in the best sense!
“For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.”
THERE are many dark things around us in which we detect light only when we behold them in the light which streams from the face of Jesus. In His light we see light in them. Yonder lies a bit of charcoal, black and opaque; and even when it has been changed by chemistry to crystals, it is dull and dense, so long as it is in the dark. Who could guess that such depths and fountains of light exist in that insignificant atom? But let it be brought into the rays of the morning sun, and as it flashes and glistens, in that light we see its light; fountains of light welling up; caverns of light, where the elves and fairies of childish story hide.
So it is of the Bible. —Its pages seem devoid of help and comfort, till we open them under the light of Jesus. Cleopas and the other learnt this on the road to Emmaus.
So it is of nature. —The Greek, lover of nature though he was, never saw in her face the loveliness which has been the theme of Christian poetry and art. In the light of Christ’s parables and allusions we see light.
“Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green;
Something lives in every hue,
Christless eyes have never seen.
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, Flowers with deeper beauties shine, While I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.”
So it is of human love. —There is a new preciousness, tenderness, thoughtfulness, blessedness, where the love and light of Jesus reign in home and heart. We see a loveliness and beauty in our dear ones that had eluded us till we beheld them in the love of Jesus.
“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”
ONE of Tauler’s hymns is a lovely specimen of how a man delights in the Lord. He takes a number of familiar instances of close affinity and interdependence, and applies them to the intimacy subsisting between him and his beloved Lord:— “As the bridegroom to his chosen,
As the king unto his realm,
As the keep unto the castle,
As the pilot to the helm,
So, Lord, art Thou to me.”
But we cannot delight thus without effort. We must withdraw our eager desires from the things of earth, fastening and fixing them on Him. The current of our being must set towards God. We must cultivate the habit of holy intimacy with Him, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. We must accustom ourselves to hold up before us the successive attributes and works of God, till they strike our admiration, and elicit our homage.
Then we shall find rest unto our souls, because He will give us the desires of our hearts. When God Himself is our desire we shall be for ever delivered from disappointment, because we can always have Him; we shall be removed from risk of penury and want, because we can have as much of Him as we need; we shall be beyond the fear of loss, because He changes not. They who want God possess Him. To long for God is to have that for which you long. To delight in God is to delight in One, of whom there is an infinity for everyone, so that there need be no stint, no jealousy, no envy, no satiety. Everyone can have as much as he can hold. “For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him” (John 3:34) that is, by meter. There is no gauge of our consumption!
“Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.”
GOD knows our desires. We cannot always put them into words; we dare not trust them to the ears of our dearest, but they lie open to Him — the ideal we desire in our holiest moments; the thorn in the flesh from which we long to be delivered; the prayer for one who is dearer to us than life. “Lord, all my desire is before Thee.”
Think of the desires of the saints — for the realization of their ideals; for the salvation of men; for the glory of the Redeemer; for the Divine answer to the scoff, the sneer, the taunt of infidelity; for the coming of the King, the restoration of His ancient people, the setting up of the millennial reign.
“Lo, as some ship, outworn and overladen, Strains for the harbour, where her sails are furled; Lo, as some innocent and eager maiden Leans o’er the wistful limit of the world: “So even I, and with a pang more thrilling; So even I, and with a hope more sweet, Yearn for the sign, O Christ! of Thy fulfilling, Faint for the flaming of Thine advent feet.”
And remember, He who implanted the desire does abundantly above all we ask or think. There is always a defect in every earthly joy, a something which shows itself for a moment to elude us.
“It blossoms just beyond the paths I follow, It shines beyond the farthest stars I see; It echoes faint from ocean caverns hollow, And from the land of dreams it beckons me.”
But it never can be thus with any desire that God has taught us to cherish. Of these, as the ages pass, we shall say: It was a true report that I heard, but the half was not told. The desire which is directed to God cannot miss gratification.
“Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”
SORROW and pain had taught the Psalmist some deep lessons touching the life of men around him — they seemed to be shadows pursuing shadows. They walked in a vain show, and were disquieted in vain. At their best estate, i.e., when most firmly rooted, they were only a breath, curling from lip or nostril into the chill morning air, and then gone for ever. The outward life and activity of man seemed to him as the shadow which darkens for a moment a whole mountain side, and, whilst you look, it has been chased away by the succeeding sheets of sunshine.
Amid all these vanities, the child of God is a pilgrim to the Unseen. He passes through Vanity Fair, with his eyes steadily fixed on the Eternal City, whose Builder and Maker is God. Abraham first described himself as a stranger and sojourner, when he stood up from before his dead, and craved a burying-place from the sons of Heth. All his children, those who inherit a like faith, must say the same. Faith cannot find a home on this side of the stars. It has caught a glimpse of the Infinite, and it can never be content with anything less.
But we are sojourners “with God.” He is our constant companion.
What Greatheart was to the women and feeble ones, God is to each of His saints. We may be strangers; but we are not solitary. We may be compelled to relax our grasp from the hands of beloved ones; but never alone — the Father is with us. Good company, safe escort, is it not? In the strength of it, we may obey without reluctance or fear the old motto — Habita, ut migraturus: Live as about to emigrate.
“There is nothing greater than God; nothing less than I. He is rich; I am very poor, but I want for nothing.”
“Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”
THE writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 10) lays great stress on these words. He says that this yielding up of Christ’s will to His Father’s was consummated on the cross, and was the inner heart of our Savior’s passion. “By the which will (surrendered and given back to God) we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10) He then proceeds to suggest that it is only as we enter into a living oneness with Jesus in this that we can pass from the outer court and have boldness to enter into the Holiest of all. This, he says, is the new and living way. Jesus entered into the Holiest because He gave Himself absolutely to His Father. We cannot expect to go thither till we have become possessed of the same spirit.
It is a solemn question for each. Have we all stood at the cross, as the slave of old at the doorpost of his master’s house, and said, “I love my Master. I will not go out free?” Have we been united to that cross, as by the boring of the awl? Have we so embraced the will of God that we are prepared to follow it, though it lead to the Cross and grave? Then one condition at least is fulfilled for our standing unabashed where angels veil their faces.
But there is yet another condition. We can have no right to stand within the Holiest, except through the blood of Jesus, shed for sin on the cross. This is necessary ere sinners can have boldness in the presence of Divine Purity.
When Rutherford was like to die of sore illness, instead of a martyr’s death, he said, “I would think it a more glorious way of going home, to lay down my life for the cause at the cross of Edinburgh or St. Andrew’s; but I submit to my Master’s will. Oh for arms to embrace Him!”
“Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.”
THE realm of Blessedness is all around. It may be entered at any minute, and we may dwell in it all the days of our life.
Our enjoyment of blessedness is totally undetermined by outward circumstances. If you stand in some great retail emporium and watch the faces of the women, you will be greatly instructed.
Yonder sits a richly-dressed lady with society and fashion, dress and money at her command, but her manner and tone are utterly weary and dissatisfied; whilst across the counter a girl waits on her, whose thin face and simple attire tell their own story, but her expression and bearing betoken the possession of an inner calm and strength, an inexhaustible fund of patience and sweetness. Such contrasts meet us everywhere. The realm of blessedness dips down into humble and lowly lives on every side of us. Have we entered it?
Christ’s beatitudes give us eight gates, any one of which will immediately conduct us within its confines. But here is another: “Blessed is he that considereth the poor.” Even if you cannot help or relieve them to any appreciable extent, consider them; let them feel that you are thinking of and for them; do not hurry them when they recite their long, sad story; put them at their ease; treat them with Christian courtesy and consideration. Begin at once. There are plenty around you, who, if not poor in the things of this world, are poor in love and hope and the knowledge of God. Tell them of “the blessing of the Lord,” which “maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) Silver and gold you may have none; but such as you have be sure and give. Learn to consider people. Try and look on things from their standpoint.