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unto them which be disobedient, the Stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner 1.”
Let us not seek then for signs and wonders, or ask for sensible inward tokens of God's favour; let us not indulge enthusiasm, or become the slaves of superstition, who are children of God by faith. Faith only can introduce us to the unseen Presence of God; let us venture to believe, let us make trial before we see, and the evidence which others demand before believing, we shall gain more abundantly by believing. Almighty God is hidden from us; the world does not discover Him to us; we may go to the right hand and the left, but we find Him not. The utmost we can do in the way of nature is to feel after Him, who, though we see Him not, yet is not far from every one of us. “Lo He goeth by me, says Job, “and I see Him not; He passeth on also, and I perceive Him not.” “O that I knew where I might find Him! that I might come even to His seat. . . Behold, I go forward, and He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him. On the left hand where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him?” This is the veil that is cast over all nations; the want of intercourse or communion between the soul and Him who made it. We can speak to His creatures, we cannot speak to Him.
1 Pet. ii. 1-7.
* Job ix, 11 ; xxiii. 3. 8, 9.
Once it was not so; man was created upright, and then he saw God; he fell, and lost God's image and God's presence. How must he regain his privilege, but by becoming what he once was? He lost it by sinning, he must regain it by pureness. And till this recovery he must accept it on faith; he is allowed to apprehend and enjoy it by faith. He begins with faith, that he may end with holiness; he is allowed to begin with faith, because faith is itself of a holy nature, and the first fruits and earnest of holiness to come. Faith is the religion of sinners beginning to purify themselves for God, and in every age, and under every dispensation, the just have lived by faith. • By faith” Moses “endured, as seeing Him who is invisible;" for lack of faith Balaam met an Angel in the way and discerned him not. Thus “we walk by faith, not by sight;" we “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” We set Him on our right hand, “ whom having not seen, we love : in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.”
Opposed to this generous and vigorous faith is carnal blindness and grossness of heart, of which Scripture speaks so often. Whatever there is of spiritual light within us, is quenched by indulging our natural tastes and appetites. Our Lord says, “ Ye cannot serve God and mammon;" He bids us watch and pray, and beware of eating and drinking, buying and selling, marrying and being given in marriage. We cannot have our eyes at once on this world and on the other. Those who live in the sun's glare, can see nothing in twilight; but those whose eyes are used to the shade, see many things which the others will not believe they see. So is it with our souls; the minding of the flesh, aiming at this world's goods, seeking to rise or succeed in life, gazing on greatness, rank, distinction, abundance, pomp and show, coveting wealth, measuring things by wealth, eating and drinking without restraint, placing no curb upon the passions, exercising no self-command, living not by rule, indolently and weakly following the first idea which presents itself, the first impulse, the first temptation, all this makes the heart irreligious. Then it is that men ask for clearer evidence, and reject the truth; then they say, “How can these things be ?” or “ This is a hard saying :” or “What sign showest Thou?” for “ the heart of this people,” in the prophet's words, “ is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed ; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” When He healed men in the days of His flesh, it was indeed by means of His own sacred person, His touch, or His breath, or His voice; but still faith was the condition on the part of the suppliants; and now too, though He is with us ever so really and fully according to His promise, yet He requires faith, as before, in
order to our restoration to His favour and to His image.
What a contrast to such thoughts as these is the conduct of the mass of men. Truly they are “without God in the world,”—that is, they do not keep before their minds, in any sense, that He is present, though unseen ; they do not even admit that they ought to do so, or try to do so, or approach even to the idea that there are persons who do live as in the sight of the Invisible. Go into the general concourse of men, and what notion is there entertained of such a dependence upon, such an intercourse with, things unseen, as Scripture prescribes ? They are engaged in their several trades and professions; they are active, companionable, and friendly; they are unexceptionable as far as the civilities and kindnesses of mutual intercourse are concerned; but what are they more? Have they seriousness? Are they under the habitual influence of religion? Do they sacrifice this life to the next? Is there anything which they do or do not, which they would not do, or would not omit to do, were religion a mere idle tale? Is God in any one of their thoughts? Do they fear Him? Do they recollect that they are to be judged? What “marks” have they “ of the Lord Jesus ?" How show they that they are waiting for Him who has gone away only to come back again? What an awful sight does the baptized world present to any one who retires some few steps out of it! O fearful thought, a day will come when every eye shall see Him bodily, whom they will not learn now to see spiritually! O fearful thought indeed, when all these indolent and careless men, to say nothing of open scoffers and profligates, will be gathered together before His judgment-seat, to receive their doom once for all ! At present they look upon religion as a dream, and religious men as dreamers ; they only think of them as narrowminded men, or superstitiously strict, or weak, or fanciful, or hypocrites, or fanatical, or party-spirited; as persons who profess much, but are, after all, much the same as other men, governed by the same weaknesses, passions, and inducements. O miserable and most dreadful day of His coming, and who shall abide it? when those who will not acknowledge the secret glory, shall at length feel the manifested power of the Lamb; when those who will not discern His tokens now, but think His ordinances, His Church, His servants, to be but things of this world, will then see “the Sign of the Son of man in heaven,” and against their will must believe and tremble. For " then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Let us be wise in time; let us seek Him“ while it is called to-day;" let us“ seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face evermore." Let us seek Him in His Temple, and in its ordinances; especially in that most sacred Ordinance in which He all but reveals to us His heavenly countenance, all but gives us to touch His